Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 9, 2014

Appalachian Power announces $600,000 upgrade — in the dark

BLUEFIELD — In a case of unfortunate timing, a representative of Appalachian Power told members of the Bluefield Board of Directors Tuesday that the company plans to invest another $600,000 this year in planned downtown electrical upgrades. But the announcement was made at a board meeting that was conducted in the dark as a result of an unexpected power outage.

“First off — why is the power off?,” Interim City Manger Dennis Dillow asked Gene Jones, a representative of Appalachian Power, who was scheduled to speak to the board regarding the status of a five-year and $5 million upgrade to the city’s underground electrical grid.

Jones said the cause of the power outage, which began around 11:45 a.m., was unknown. Approximately 882 customers were impacted. The board members decided to proceed with their regular noon meeting despite the power outage. Large drapes over the two windows in the board room were opened to allow daylight to shine into the room.

Jones said the company has already invested more than $1 million in work completed in 2013 that involves the replacement of aging underground electrical vaults. He said the company is planning to invest another $600,000 this year on the project, which will involve work later this month in the areas of Commerce Street, Federal Street and McCulloch Avenue.

“We plan to do it in a five-year period,” Jones said. “When all is done and said, we estimate we will spend $5 million in Bluefield.”

A vault is a place where transformers and other electrical equipment is housed underground. Appalachian Power decided to launch the renovations following an inventory inspection of the underground electrical system in the city a few years ago. The project involves the replacement of equipment, updating of facilities and making sure that the underground electrical supply in downtown Bluefield continues to be safe and reliable, according to an earlier report by Appalachian Power spokesman Phil Moye.

As soon as Jones finished his presentation, and Bluefield State College President Dr. Marsha Krotseng approached the board to begin a discussion on downtown collaborations between the city and the college, the lights came back on.

Krotseng said Bluefield State College is continuing to work closely with the city on multiple projects. The renewed collaborative agreements between the city and the college are a part of the ongoing Blueprint Communities initiative.

“We are just hitting the tip of the iceberg,” Krotseng said. “There is tremendous (potential where) we can be working together.”

Assistant City Manager Josh Cline said two specific projects the city is working with the college on is bringing evening classes and community-based classes to the downtown area. As part of the proposal, students would take the classes in the Research and Development Building in the downtown.

“I value Bluefield State College,” Mayor Tom Cole said. “Their presence here and the economic impact of the college is incredible for the city with the payroll and the number of students here. I will tell you if there is anything I can do — and I probably speak for the whole board — what is good for the college is good for the city.”

In other action Tuesday, the board approved a resolution authorizing a contract with the West Virginia Development Office through a neighborhood revitalization grant recently secured for the city by Sen. Bill Cole, R-Mercer.

The board also approved the first reading of an ordinance to execute a deed granting Abbs Valley Pipeline, Inc. a 3.52 acre parcel of land in the city limits — near Brushfork — for a price of $100,000.

In other business, Art Riley, head of the Downtown Merchants Association, said plans are continuing for this year’s downtown street fair, which will be held on Aug. 1 and 2.

Riley said several new attractions will held at this year’s fair, including bouncy houses made possible by the June Shott Foundation. Riley said an expanded beauty pageant also is planned.

“I think this year’s fair will be different,” Riley said. “It will be bigger and better.”

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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