Wed07232014

Last updateWed, 19 Nov 2014 8pm

   2014 39.95 HSD w VIDor PH-Banner2-500-x-125

Council discusses obtaining a generator to be available during emergencies but takes no action

Colonial Beach Town Manager Val Foulds recruited Marion Miller, a certified public accountant retired from public procurement, to research options for obtaining a 350 kw generator to power Colonial Beach High School in case of power failures.

The high school building has been designated as the town’s emergency shelter. Although few people have utilized it in the past, council members feel the town owes it to the citizens to provide a comfortable place to go in an emergency.

Miller researched several generator suppliers, including three recommended by Councilman Jim Chiarello. Chiarello recommended Northern Neck Generator (NNG), Aggreko StormShield and Carter Machinery. NNG stated they no longer rent, but referred Miller to a company called Bayside Diesel & Generator.

Chiarello previously presented the idea of a contingency plan, which would require the town to pay a monthly fee to secure the delivery of a rental generator, in case of an emergency.

Miller said that she talked with many professionals who said that contingency plans are not needed and very rarely offered.

Aggreko StormShield owner, Russell Shiflett, told Miller that he has sold only two contingencies in 12 years, and based on his years of experience, he recommends that the town pursue a rental option and make a quick decision when a storm approaches.

Miller told the council she learned that before any plans are made to purchase or rent a generator, a service-rated transfer switch must be installed. “Overall, my opinion is we should look at purchasing, including the installation of this switch, and having the generator in place, because hurricanes are not the only thing that could happen,” Miller said.

Miller reminded the council that there are other times a generator is needed, such as snowstorms or tornadoes. Miller said, “To be limited to just renting in the case of a hurricane, I think you are limiting the option of establishing a disaster-preparedness center.”

Miller said Fidelity Engineering gave the most comprehensive quote for a rental generator and has allowed for extenuating circumstances. Miller said that for approximately $5000, Fidelity will set up a 350kw or 400kw generator, installed.

PSP Power Solutions told Miller that they do not rent, but will look for a used generator for Colonial Beach to consider as an option.

Miller said that Agreeko StormShield, one of Chiarello’s suggested companies, did not include the extras in their quote, so she estimates the true cost would be higher than offered by Fidelity.

Carter Machinery is the Caterpillar dealer that Chiarello initially contacted, according to Miller, who said that using that company would require a three-month minimum contingency agreement at $4,200 per month, plus usage charges. “So to look at them, you’re automatically putting $12,000 on the table,” Miller said.

Miller said that she personally does not recommend using contingencies. She said she spoke with Lee Newton, the owner of Bayside Diesel & Generator, a man with 30 years of experience. She added, “He said that you will get a generator, you just need to make a decision up front.” Miller told the council that the majority of generator business is not done on contingencies.

Miller said that as a citizen, she is concerned with the possibility of bridges being flooded, and that bringing in a generator may not be possible in a hurricane or flooding situation.

When asked what a new generator would cost, her estimates were between $180,000 to $200,000 for a new one. Chiarello continued to state that he thinks a contingency is the way to go. “Short term, we need to do something,” he said.

Miller replied, “To spend $12,000 for three months, when the hurricane season is close to being over, is a waste of money.” She said that she was assured that generators will be available, as long as the town doesn’t wait to make the decision. She said that the cost of $5000 versus $12,000 saves money.

Chiarello continued to argue his point, “You’re taking a potluck chance, because you’re not guaranteed to get a generator.”

Miller asked, “If the experts are not recommending a generator, why would you want to go that way?”
Councilman Gary Seeber tried to end the debate by saying, “It’s going to be at least a month before we can even get a switch put in.”

Eventually, Councilman Tommy Edwards gained the floor, and began asking County Supervisor Larry Roberson a series of questions. Edwards asked where the county shelters were located, and if their generators were stationary or temporary.

Roberson said that the shelters were located in Montross, with a permanent generator, and at Washington District School, which he was not sure if it was portable or not. Roberson said that years back, when a previous council was seated, Westmoreland County had offered a large generator to the Town of Colonial Beach, but the council at that time declined the offer. “Unfortunately, you’re stuck now, trying to do something to correct a problem that happened years ago,” Roberson added.

Edwards said that he feels that having a generator in place is the ideal situation, but that if the town had to rent in the interim, he would support that. But Edwards feels that the town should purchase one for year-round use. If the town is providing an emergency shelter, it has the responsibility to provide power.

Councilwoman Wanda Goforth asked Miller to look into federal government surplus equipment or used generators. Discussions were left open-ended, with no real directions to staff, and no vote of any kind.  Council will have to move forward to purchase a switch before any plans for a generator can be considered.

Linda Farneth

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