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Electrical grid in Dunedin sparks concern
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Screenshot by TOM GERMOND
Dunedin Fire Chief Jeff Parks discusses actions Sept. 21 undertaken by emergency managementoperations in response to Hurricane Irma.
DUNEDIN – Hurricane Irma has spurred city of Dunedin commissioners to question the condition of the infrastructure in the city pertaining to electrical power.

Commissioner Moe Freaney Sept. 18 suggested that city officials ask Duke Energy to address the condition of the grid and that the commission have a workshop on storm issues.

She referred to a report conducted in the early 2000s when there were talks of Dunedin taking over electrical utility operations.

“There was a report done at the time assessing the condition of our grid. It was not a very positive report as I recall,” Freaney said.

She wants to get information on how the grid is being maintained “so we can deal with kinds of a factual review of where we are.”

She was concerned that a category three or four hurricane would cause substantial damage, noting that Hurricane Irma was less than a category one storm when it hit the area.

“I just think it would be responsible for us as a commission, and I know we all have the same concerns to really understand what’s going on with the maintenance of our power grid,” she said.

Freaney said she was shown a picture of someone working on the lines over the last few days.

“It was a picture of the inside of a pole and there was almost no wood left in that pole,” Freaney said. “So, again, that is not going to withstand any storm.”

Other commissioners agreed. Commissioner Deborah Kynes also wanted to address utility undergrounding.

“Some people say it’s just aesthetics. But I don’t think so,” she said.

She asked for information on undergrounding on how much could get done incrementally.

“And how that affects the picture when you have a major storm event,” she said.

Commissioners also commended staff for their work efforts pertaining to the storm.

“Our infrastructure, that we control, the water, wastewater and toilets flushing, all the things that matter, you know, we were on top of it,” Freaney said.

Discussion of the storm continued at the commission’s regular Meeting Sept. 21.

Fire Chief Jeff Parks said his department has 70 calls during the height of the storm, and 67 calls the following day.

“We were ramped up. We had every firefighter in the city except for two that were on vacation on duty and ready to serve,” Park said.

They responded to one structure fire, but nobody was hurt, and they prevented it from spreading to two other homes.

Solid Waste Director Bill Pickrum said the city didn’t have a lot of flooding, but it experienced a lot of fallen trees and fences. There is a lot of debris yet to be accumulated by contractors who are trying to catch up with their work. Steps are under way to get reimbursement from FEMA for certain losses.

“I look at my street and it’s yuk. But I look at Puerto Rico, and they are not going to have electricity for the next six months,” she said. “So I’ll be as patient as possible.”

City officials said patience is needed because contractors are spread thin.

“The debris is going to take awhile,” Kynes said. “We are not Houston, and we are not Puerto Rico. We have so much to be thankful for and you have done an extraordinary job.”

Commissioner John Tornga asked for an estimated time to be about 80 percent complete. He was told two to three months.

“We could very well get into the six to eight weeks if the contractor is hustling for us with trucks to come down here, to come down from Texas, from Georgia,” he said.

The storm caused $350,000 in damages to city building.

City Manager Jennifer Bramley told commissioners staff will present an “after-action” comprehensive report on the storm including conclusions on what city officials did well and not so well.
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