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Lake Placid may borrow for electric upgrades

August 10, 2017
By ANTONIO OLIVERO - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Village board members are opting to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars for different electric improvements than those they initially voted on earlier this year, partially due to two blackouts suffered since then.

At the Monday, Aug. 7 village board meeting, trustees unanimously approved to borrow up to $700,000 through serial bonds for two transformers.

The majority of the money is either to repair the village's current, larger transformer and/or to purchase a new one. It'll cost the village several hundred thousands of dollars, and Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said the difference in price between refurbishing or buying new transformers seems minimal.

"The situation is that we got one transformer that's gone bad," Randall said. "We are going to have to shut it down."

The new, smaller transformer would cost around $100,000 and is to be located at the village's sewer plant with a primary use to provide village residents and businesses electricity in the event of another mass outage, similar to the ones that occurred in February and June.

"This becomes particularly useful if we lost power in village," Randall said, "in that it would allow us to continue to feed the village while one substation might be down.

"We have to either rebuild the big transformer or replace it, one or the other, so that's not the question," Randall added. "The second one creates more of an electric redundancy here in the village."

Borrowing these hundreds of thousands of dollars comes after the village in February unanimously approved a resolution to borrow up to $750,000 in serial bonds for what Randall described at the time as a "much-needed" 115-kilovolt circuit breaker. Village trustees approved that potential borrowing just days before a 19-plus-hour outage left village residents and visitors without electricity overnight.

Randall said at that time the main reason the village needed the breaker was because the village's current equivalent switch is located at Lake Colby. Randall explained in February that powering down with the current switch would affect portions of Saranac Lake and Ray Brook, including the federal prison, whereas doing so with the new switch would not.

But the resolution the board unanimously approved in February only granted the village the authority to seek bids for the project. Randall said in February that it "seemed likely" the village would move forward with the project, but he explained at the Monday meeting that the electric department had changed its mind.

Since that February decision, not only have there been two major power outages, but the village has a new electrical superintendent. In June, Kim Daby succeeded Peter Kroha, who had held the job since the late 1970s.

"It's been taken off the table with no feelings whether it'll come back in a year - it may never come back," the mayor said of the circuit breaker. "It didn't seem to us that the benefit of that project to the overall village was as good as designing a different way to keeping us up.

"If the power goes down from Malone to Lake Colby to Lake Placid," Randall continued, "the circuit breaker switch isn't going to do us much good. It does allow us to isolate our substations, however.

"I think Kim is considering a project that will allow one of the substations to be down and still allow for feeding, and that will require an investment as well. But that's a far more practical investment than the one switch - which actually, during the outage earlier this year, they discovered they can shut the power down in Ray Brook if they have to."



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