By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Visitors to downtown Bluefield can expect to see some unusual construction work next month.
Crews with Appalachian Power will be launching a five-year, $3.3 million upgrade to the city’s underground electrical grid. The work will start next month on Raleigh Street and will involve the replacement of underground vaults.
“A vault is a place where transformers and other electrical equipment are housed,” Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye said. “In downtown Bluefield, we have a lot of the electrical distribution system that is underground so that you don’t have poles and wires in the downtown area. This project is to replace equipment, update our facilities and just make sure that the underground electrical supply in downtown Bluefield continues to be safe and reliable.”
Moye said Appalachian Power decided to launch the renovations following an inventory inspection of the underground electrical system in the city a few years ago.
“We did a pretty extensive inventory inspection of that underground electrical system, and the information we gained from those inspections helped us identify where we need to replace equipment, and move equipment,” Moye said. “In some cases, we will remove vaults and move to ground-based transformers. Most of the work will be in the downtown area.”
Moye said it is unclear at this point if planned power outages will be needed to complete the five-year project. If the company reaches a point where a power outage will be necessary, all customers will be notified in advance so that they can properly prepare for a planned outage.
“Customers driving through the downtown would see the work being done because it will be along the streets,” Moye said. “In 2013 our area of focus will be the Raleigh Street area. And again we are supposed to start around the end of May. To me it is a great thing to invest in our facilities and downtown Bluefield. It is exciting to see a new investment in the city.”
Moye said future phases of the $3.3 million project will include Commerce, Federal , Scott and Bland streets and Bluefield Avenue.