Power plant emergency continued

By JAMES A. ROBICHAUX

An extension of the state of emergency declared on June 27 after the failure of the city’s electrical transformer and updates for going forward with a replacement were discussed by the Morgan City City Council Thursday evening at the city auditorium.

The meeting had been scheduled Tuesday night, but was delayed due to Hurricane Isaac.

Mayor Tim Matte reported that at 4:15 a.m. as Hurricane Isaac was striking, the electrical tie with Cleco was lost and he praised city utility workers for keeping the power plant operational.

“We have a small number of customers still without power” due to specific issues like trees and poles falling, Matte said.

“We were prepared for a tremendous amount of rain, and apparently it all came around 4 o’clock this afternoon,” he said, referring to an intense downpour Thursday.

The council declared a state of emergency because of the approaching hurricane, but the council Thursday voted to extend the state of emergency declared on June 27 due to the power failure.

Consulting engineer Raleigh Cox said the city needs to buy a 100 megawatt transformer.

Cox and Matte said that the city remains vulnerable with the one replacement transformer that has been used since June 27.

Cox reported that a power plant that the city plans to build will have two ties to the Cleco grid, each with a transformer, meaning that in the event a transformer fails, there would be another one in place, though only one would remain activated in normal times.

“When we design the location for it, we’ll make that location correct for a much larger transformer,” Cox said.

Matte said the investigation into the cause of the June 26 transformer fire continues.

“The insurance companies have still been negotiating on who is responsible,” he said.

Lloyd’s of London is the city’s property insurer (and would therefore insure losses purely from fire), and Travelers Insurance is the city’s boiler and machinery insurer. How much money each company pays in claims is contingent upon the cause of the fire.

“They first came and looked at the exterior and made some general assumptions. They came in and looked inside the load-tap changer cabinet, and they went back to their offices and still couldn’t decide on a cause and what their responsibilities were. So, they came out and put someone inside the transformer on Aug. 22 and left without having a conclusion.”

City chief administrative officer Lorrie Braus said that the companies gave “no particular time frame” about when they would let the city know their findings, “but their assumption is that it’s going to be a 90/10 division, with 90 percent being fire and 10 percent being boiler and machinery.”

Matte said that he would like the new transformer to arrive by next summer, by which time increased electrical usage caused by rising temperatures will once again cause the transformer’s capacity to be met.

In other business, Bias reported that he had received a telephone call from the Rev. Terry Dardar at the Church of Christ on Railroad Avenue about reducing speed limits there after Sunday service times.

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