Columbiana Council discusses outage caused by squirrel

COLUMBIANA – A nearly four-hour power outage on Monday in the city wouldn’t have been as drastic had the north substation been available as a backup source, electrical superintendent Doug Sturgeon said.

Sturgeon told Mayor David Spatholt and council on Tuesday power could have been restored to residents and businesses within a half-hour had the north substation been operational.

The electric crew was able to switch over the circuit to restore power after a squirrel chewed on a main cable in the conduit box at the south substation, but the restoration happened more than an hour after the incident for some customers and even longer for others.

“Had the north substation been up and running, within a half-hour we could have had everybody up and on with a couple of switches,” Sturgeon said.

The north substation was not an option since it is currently undergoing a roughly million-dollar upgrade for exactly this purpose.

The city opted to spend the money on the project that would add more power to the substation so that it could serve as a backup in the event that the south substation is not operational.

The project began forming in 2010 and Sturgeon said it should be completed by Feb. 1.

As far as the south substation is concerned, crews were working until nearly 5 a.m. Tuesday morning making the necessary repairs, he added.

“We pulled the bad section of cable out and replaced it last night,” he said.

The squirrel was chewing on the main cable that was running between 6,000 and 7,000 amps and the disturbance tripped the main breaker around 11 a.m. Monday.

Sturgeon also said the squirrel’s body was found about eight feet into the conduit and Councilman James King asked if similar conduits were located in the city, to which he replied that the department is going to “check on that.”

It is still unknown what the outage cost the city and its businesses, he added.

Acting City Manager and Finance Director Mike Harold said one local business was contemplating whether to close its doors during the outage.

The city school district also had to make a decision to stay in session or not, which it did.

Sturgeon could be heard telling Police Chief Tim Gladis after the meeting that the school district was one of the department’s “first priorities” as far as power restoration was concerned.

In other business, council approved:

– An emergency resolution authorizing Harold to enter into an LPA Federal Local-Let Project agreement with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). The city will pay $6,000 for paving on roughly nine-tenths of a mile of road through the agreement.

– A first reading of an ordinance designating the services the city is going to provide to the property being annexed from Fairfield Township for the new water treatment plant.

– Entering into executive session to discuss the sale of property, personnel and collective bargaining. No action was taken following the hour-and-a-half session.