TARGET 8: Columbia looks for new transmission line project plans, again

9 months 2 weeks 2 days ago Monday, December 03 2018 Dec 3, 2018 Monday, December 03, 2018 3:21:00 PM CST December 03, 2018 in News
By: Evan Dodson, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA – After years of research, spending millions of dollars and even a public vote, the city of Columbia is no longer looking into previous plans to expand the electricity supply for the city's south and southwest sides.

The problem

The issue boils down to the fact that more people have moved to Columbia’s south side over the years, and within the last decade, the city found the current available electric resources aren’t meeting the area's growing needs.

John Conway is a retired professional engineer. He’s followed this project since it was first introduced in 2007. He said this is an issue that needs attention sooner, rather than later.

“It needs to get fixed now. It’s been planned out, it’s been engineered,” he said.  

Conway said the city has eight substations, which distribute electricity. Transmission lines run around Columbia to connect the substations and distribute electricity. He said aging substations add to the issue, too. He also said neglecting to fix the problem now could lead to possible black outs and even transmission explosions, which could be costly.

"If it's significant, then it might be days or weeks before we're able to restore power,” he said.

Conway said there are several doctors’ offices and assisted living facilities on the south side of Columbia, which require consistent power, 24 hours a day.

Previously studied plans to solve the problem

The city has looked at and invested in several plans to fix the electricity resource issues. One of these plans, called Option A, included building a new substation on the south side of town. Conway said this substation would have relieved the electric load from the current substations. A map of Option A shows the new substation connecting to other substations with new transmission lines.

City council voted to go further with Option A in July 2013 and residents voted to pay for the project in April 2015. But later in 2015, people living near the site of this new substation raised concerns, and were afraid the transmission lines and substation would decrease property values in the area. Residents also argued the new structures could be dangerous for the nearby elementary school, Mill Creek Elementary. A petition was started to stop the project, and the city council voted 4-3 to delay moving forward with Option A in January 2016.

Millions spent on previous plans

However, at that point, the city had already spent more than $7 million dollars on the land, research and equipment for Option A, which was no longer pursued. A report shows $2 million dollars of this was lost.

But Fifth Ward City Councilman Matt Pitzer said the rest of that money didn’t go to waste.

"The costs are either recoverable, or the equipment is being uses elsewhere," he said. 

Later in 2016, another plan was proposed to city council by Mayor Brian Treece, known as Option E. This option would have connected the city’s substations to the Ameren transmission lines that run across the state, as well as connect substations from the northeast side of town to the southwest side with new transmission lines.

After receiving the cost estimates from a records request for Option A and Option E, KOMU 8 News found that Option E would have cost about $10 million more dollars than the previous plan, Option A. 

Pitzer and Treece told KOMU 8 News Columbia Water and Light determined the city’s growth hasn’t met expectations, and the demand for electric resources isn’t as high as once thought.

Pitzer said the city is no longer pursing Options A or E.

"There's really no need to move forward with any of the options at this time," he said. 

Ryan Williams, the assistant director of Columbia Water and Light, said it's true the city's growth hasn't met expectations, but he said Options A and E aren't "completely off the table."

"Part of that is true, yes, the load has not grown to a point to require the transmission lines. Staff has never claimed that either of those projects are, you know, dead, if you will," he said. 

No future plans, as of now

Both Pitzer and Treece told KOMU 8 News the city appointed an Integrated Electric Resource and Master Plan Task Force to look into future options to fix the electric resource issues for the south and southwest sides of the city.

KOMU 8 News reached out to the chair of this task force, Rachel Hassani, and she said the task force does not currently have a plan to specifically address the issue. She said the task force is starting from scratch. The group will instead look at ways to improve electric needs for the entire city, and it’s not focusing on one section of Columbia at this time.

“We as a task force are gonna look at every capacity need that we have in the area, which would include all areas of the service territory,” she said.

Hassani said the task force will look into consulting firms for the city’s electricity needs starting in early 2019.

Is the city being transparent? 

Retired energy lawyer, Sarah Read, said the city isn’t being transparent with residents about the status on this project, and she said it comes down to city leadership. 

“I think the public deserves a much more open, straightforward and honest dialogue than what it’s been getting,” she said. “Honestly, transparency and accountability are all very important for the public trust in government and without trust, it is very difficult to solve and move through very complicated issues, like how do we meet our infrastructure needs.”

And Conway said the city isn’t providing voters with enough information.

“The voters need to be updated as to what progress is being made, and what options are being pursued,” he said.

But Pitzer said transparency isn't an issue. 

"I think we've been pretty transparent with the acknowledgment that this new planning process will replace, you know, all of the previous planning that has been done," he said. "We'll update and move forward from there."

Read said the city needs to address this issue now. She said this process has gone on too long.

“As a taxpayer, it’s frustrating to know that we have spent millions of dollars as a city and we’re no closer to insuring our electric service reliability than we were.”

She also said it all comes down to having enough electricity for her city.

“I am definitely concerned about loss of power. A loss of power, especially in the middle of the summer, could be quite costly to both individuals and businesses,” she said.

 

More News

Grid
List
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri health officials say the state has recorded its first vaping-related death. The Missouri... More >>
30 minutes ago Thursday, September 19 2019 Sep 19, 2019 Thursday, September 19, 2019 4:05:00 PM CDT September 19, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA- One Columbia neighbor was left feeling uneasy Thursday after a burglary resulted in a death on her street. ... More >>
32 minutes ago Thursday, September 19 2019 Sep 19, 2019 Thursday, September 19, 2019 4:03:00 PM CDT September 19, 2019 in News
BOONVILLE - The Boonville Police Department took 30-year-old Johnathan Todd into custody on Thursday for possession of meth, marijuana, prescription-controlled... More >>
36 minutes ago Thursday, September 19 2019 Sep 19, 2019 Thursday, September 19, 2019 3:58:53 PM CDT September 19, 2019 in News
FULTON – Fulton community members and business owners are coming together to show their support for a family and their... More >>
1 hour ago Thursday, September 19 2019 Sep 19, 2019 Thursday, September 19, 2019 2:56:00 PM CDT September 19, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A federal judge has denied a request by Missouri to allow a ban on abortions after... More >>
6 hours ago Thursday, September 19 2019 Sep 19, 2019 Thursday, September 19, 2019 10:21:00 AM CDT September 19, 2019 in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Jurors ruled against a teacher who alleged that she was fired from a Catholic school in... More >>
6 hours ago Thursday, September 19 2019 Sep 19, 2019 Thursday, September 19, 2019 10:15:51 AM CDT September 19, 2019 in News
IBERIA - Police are investigating a threat of mass violence made by a student in Iberia R-V School District. ... More >>
6 hours ago Thursday, September 19 2019 Sep 19, 2019 Thursday, September 19, 2019 9:53:00 AM CDT September 19, 2019 in News
CAMDEN COUNTY - An Illinois man drowned at the Lake of the Ozarks Wednesday afternoon after falling into the water.... More >>
6 hours ago Thursday, September 19 2019 Sep 19, 2019 Thursday, September 19, 2019 9:40:00 AM CDT September 19, 2019 in News
Global warming has often been used interchangeably with climate change. Well, they shouldn’t be, because they do not describe the... More >>
17 hours ago Wednesday, September 18 2019 Sep 18, 2019 Wednesday, September 18, 2019 10:50:00 PM CDT September 18, 2019 in Climate
COLUMBIA - Longtime MU professor and musicologist Dr. Michael Budds wiped tears from his eyes as MU alumna Symonne... More >>
20 hours ago Wednesday, September 18 2019 Sep 18, 2019 Wednesday, September 18, 2019 8:29:00 PM CDT September 18, 2019 in News
BELLE - After the bodies of 4-year-old Bentlee Turner and 37-year-old Jason Burton were found on Monday night, the community... More >>
20 hours ago Wednesday, September 18 2019 Sep 18, 2019 Wednesday, September 18, 2019 7:42:00 PM CDT September 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Flu shots are now available from the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services (PHHS). ... More >>
22 hours ago Wednesday, September 18 2019 Sep 18, 2019 Wednesday, September 18, 2019 6:26:00 PM CDT September 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools is implementing new rules at all middle school and high school home sporting events. ... More >>
22 hours ago Wednesday, September 18 2019 Sep 18, 2019 Wednesday, September 18, 2019 6:16:00 PM CDT September 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia police confirm one person is dead after officers responded to an armed burglary call Wednesday afternoon. ... More >>
23 hours ago Wednesday, September 18 2019 Sep 18, 2019 Wednesday, September 18, 2019 5:35:00 PM CDT September 18, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY – Improvements to the Dix Road bridge over U.S. Route 50 have now been slated to begin Wednesday,... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 18 2019 Sep 18, 2019 Wednesday, September 18, 2019 3:49:00 PM CDT September 18, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri State Highway Patrol released the names of the child and adult found dead in Gasconade... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 18 2019 Sep 18, 2019 Wednesday, September 18, 2019 2:39:05 PM CDT September 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Police are looking for information related to a robbery early Wednesday. It happened at the Midwest Petroleum... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 18 2019 Sep 18, 2019 Wednesday, September 18, 2019 2:33:00 PM CDT September 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia officials are fighting back against the trend of vaping among teenagers. Columbia/Boone County Public Health and... More >>
1 day ago Wednesday, September 18 2019 Sep 18, 2019 Wednesday, September 18, 2019 1:19:00 PM CDT September 18, 2019 in Continuous News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 92°
5pm 89°
6pm 84°
7pm 82°
8pm 79°