KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO
Rebuilding engine No. 6 at the Greenport Municipal Light and Water Plant Tuesday is just the early stage of what will be an estimated $6 million project to bring the village’s electric department up to snuff.
With initial work already under way at the electric power plant on Moore’s Lane, Village Board members Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution allowing utilities director Jack Naylor to advertise for bids on a number of critical upgrades that will be part of an estimated $5 million project.
The vote came after an hour-long presentation by Genesys Engineering principal Bob Braun and CPA William Freitag of BST about what’s needed to assure that the village’s electric system will be reliable, safe and properly maintained.
Most critical is the power distribution system, which hasn’t been maintained regularly or upgraded in at least 10 years, Mr. Braun said. Switchgears dating to the 1960s haven’t been maintained in years and those installed in the 1990s haven’t been cleaned up and recalibrated, as they should be annually, he said.
“Regular maintenance should be done no matter what the budget situation is,” said Trustee Michael Osinski.
Said Mr. Braun: “What the village is trying to do is to catch up.”
In the last five years little money has been spent on maintenance and repairs, according to Mr. Freitag. That not only puts the system in jeopardy, but is costly to the ratepayers being charged for electrical power, not all of which is reaching their homes. A small amount of “line loss” is inevitable, Mr. Freitag said, but Greenport has been averaging 11.5 to 15 percent and that’s much too high, he said. He noted that the 15 percent figure, which was recorded last year, seems to be an anomaly. But with an improved distribution system, line loss should be reduced to about 3 percent.
“The village has been [investing in utilities],” Mr. Braun said. “The current administration is doing things that were neglected in the past.” Still, he added, a lot of work remains to bring the system up to speed.
Other municipalities with generating plants typically apply 5 to 8 percent of their operating budgets to repairs and maintenance, Mr. Freitag said.
More than $900,000 of a previously authorized $1.5 million is still available to spend on initial steps before the board will have to seek a bond to complete the project. Pointing out that municipal bond rates are low, Mr. Osinski said he would like to initiate the borrowing soon. That’s a decision board members will wrestle with at upcoming meetings.
Mr. Braun outlined several next steps:
* Rehabilitation of distribution switchgears.
* Installation of devices and wiring for parallelling the power plant operations with outside switchgears.
* Installation of a new 10 megavolt ampere transformer.
* Upgrading of the monitoring panel for village electrical feeders.
* Installation of a transmission mimic board.
* Refurbishing of enterprise switchgears.
The new transformer could cost as much as $700,000, Mr. Braun said. But it’s vital since the village currently has only one transformer, which is operating at capacity, and no backup.
Mr. Braun has been working with village plant employees to clean up the three operating engines, all of which are now in good condition, he said. Two backup engines the village obtained from government surplus should assure that there will be no need for additional engines in the foreseeable future, he said.
Eventually, electrical meters should be replaced to assure they are properly measuring electrical usage. Newer meters that feed information directly into the plant could save the village the cost of meter readers, Mr. Braun said.
In 2007 the New York Power Authority approved a rate hike in the village to increase the flow of revenues meant to be applied to the upgrading. But only about 5 percent of the necessary work has been done and Mayor David Nyce has been told not to expect approval of another rate hike until a lot more progress is made on the project.
Even if ratepayers eventually see their costs rise, they will still be paying more than 30 percent less for electrical power than Long Island Power Authority customers, according to village officials.