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Decker (click for larger version)

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Kukla (click for larger version)
February 12, 2013 | 02:14 PM
GENEVA — Supervisor Gene Decker said the worst town power outage he can recall was during the first snowstorm in December, when for about a day, most of the Lake Como subdivision was without electricity.

On the phone Jan. 31, Decker said some homes didn't have power for two nights, and some of his friends were contemplating spending the night at his house, which was one of the few in Como that still had power.

"It was getting to the point where I was getting calls from people, 'Could I borrow your generator?' … When you don't have power, you don't have heat," he said. "It went out at about 4 a.m., then it came back on at 5 p.m. that afternoon, a day later, for most people."

Power outages have town officials concerned, and one municipal service is performing the work some would argue should be done by the power company.

In a Jan. 7 statement explaining his spring re-election bid, Town Chairman Joe Kopecky said one of the "lingering carry-over matters" his board will focus on this year is "the issue of utility interruptions which seem to be more prevalent in certain areas of the town." Attempts to reach Kopecky for further comment since Jan. 31 were unsuccessful by press time.

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However, in his statement, Kopecky said the solution could be a "more aggressive tree trimming program."

Decker said the board asked Highway Superintendent Randy Parker to trim trees that grow too close to the power lines, time permitting. The town has the equipment, including a lift, Decker said.

"The lines are in the easements," he said. "We own the first 8 to 10 feet off every road, but it's an expense to us and Alliant is supposed to do it."

Decker suggested that customers pressure Alliant Energy to send maintenance crews out more frequently to the area.

But is it the solution to town outages? Perhaps the problem requires more than one solution.

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Decker said power outages seem to occur more in the summer.

A squirrel may venture into a line transformer, "committing suicide," he said, creating a malfunction and "we might lose, let's say, a five or six block area because of that."

Then, Alliant will investigate and it could be 12 to 24 hours before the problem is ascertained and repaired, Decker said.

"But we don't have a reliability problem," he said. "The south side (of Lake Como) has more of a reliability problem."

Does it? The south side of Lake Como is where Supervisor Steve Kukla lives, in a home he said has been in his family for more than 50 years.

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"The only recent outage I recall was in the summer of 2011, when the microburst/tornado blew through our town and took down several power poles in the neighborhood, including the one in my front yard," Kukla stated.

He offered his take on the situation.

"First, I don't work for the power company, nor am I an electrical engineer by trade, but if you look at a few of the last outages, the outages stem from trees/limbs falling into the lines or lightning strikes hitting the transformers," Kukla stated. "The only way, I think, to avoid these issues is to bury the lines, which is exactly what Alliant did on the Snake Road corridor two years ago."

That would have been around the time Alliant Energy's proposal to build a substation near the South Shore Drive-Schofield Road intersection failed.

"A new substation would not have helped when several power poles are on the ground," Kukla stated. "I will not endorse any new substation built in a residential neighborhood in any part of our town."

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Multimillion-dollar upgrade

In fact, there already is one substation in the town — on Highway NN, near Highway 12.

Decker said that substation factors into an $80.6 million electrical transmission upgrade proposed by American Transmission Co. (ATC), Madison.

One part of ATC's plan, according to its website, is to build a 138-kilovolt transmission line about 25 miles long, from the substation to the Spring Valley substation in western Kenosha County.

Decker said ATC builds transmission lines for Alliant. He said he and Kukla went to a recent open house for the proposal at Hawk's View Golf Course.

There are two options to run the 25-mile line, Decker said.

One follows along Highway 12 to Highway 50.

The other follows along Highway 12, but the line would be run along Highway 120, then along Center Street — past about 15 houses which are located within the town of Geneva.

Decker said he wants the board to write a letter urging that proponents of the project go with running the line along Highways 12 and 50.

He said there were about 65 different kinds of salespeople at the open house at Hawk's View.

Decker said he asked them about the power service interruptions that have been occurring in the town, if this project would have any impact on the situation.

"They said absolutely not," he said.

Decker said he asked them another question: Would the proposed substation on Schofield Road have helped prevent outages on the south shore?

He said they also told him "absolutely not."

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