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Converting power

Powerline Conversion project nearly complete

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Posted: Thursday, December 6, 2012 5:01 pm

The skyline along Gering’s U Street is much less cluttered this week. An extensive effort to drop overhead powerlines down to be laid in their permanent underground route was made last Thursday, Nov. 29. Colorado Powerline, Inc. project foreman Joe Matlock said the conversion project has come together nearly without a hitch.

“We’ve been here since July 18 and we hope to be done by Dec. 22 and home before Christmas,” Matlock said during a job-site interview last Thursday.

Matlock said the company had a slight delay due to materials delivery, which pushed back project completion from the initial Nov. 16 date.

Gering Mayor Ed Mayo said he has been pleased with the progress of the million-dollar project.

“From the comments I have received, this company has been extraordinarily efficient and very decent to the area homeowners,” Mayo said. “They have gone above and beyond what was expected for customer service.”

The joint project is being completed with cooperation between the City of Gering and Western Area Power Administration (WAPA). On June 29, the Gering City Council approved a total bid of $1,098,321.64 from Colorado Powerline, Inc. of Sedalia, Colo. WAPA committed $350,000 to the project. The city also hoped to collect additional revenue from the cooperating phone and cable companies for the installation of the new underground conduit. The total estimated expenses to the city were $900,000.

Mayo said the city budgeted $1.5 million for the project, which has been nearly completed under budget.

Earlier this summer, City Engineer Paul Snarr said the project was necessary because the overhead power lines had become an eyesore along one of the city’s major entryways. Underground lines would require less maintenance and would be safer for residents living along U Street, as several of the existing wooden power poles had been knocked down in high winds. Many of the existing wooden power poles were installed in the early 1950s, with many succumbing to high winds over the years.

In addition to rerouting the overhead powerlines along U Streets between 11th Street and Highway 71, Matlock said telephone and cable television have also been run through the new underground conduit.

“We’ve laid about 80,000 feet of new wire for the project,” Matlock said, explaining that most of the power lines have been buried at a five-feet level.

Eighteen new switch boxes have been installed along the route. These green casket looking locked boxes house the distribution system to each of the properties and outlets along U Street.

In August, construction crews began removing sidewalks, sod and landscaping in the right-of-way along the south side of U Street across from Gering High School to trench the line for the conduit installation. Once the conduit was laid and buried, contractors quickly replaced the sidewalks, complete with new curbs, gutters and intersection entry ramps. Landscaping was also replaced for property owners along the construction route.

“We’ve installed new sidewalks, new retaining walls with stamped concrete and the homeowners have gotten new fences. There was no expense to them,” Matlock said. “We rocked some areas and sodded some areas, whatever the homeowner wanted.”

Matlock said local contractor Ron Havengar with Concrete Cattle Company did the stamped concrete work.  “They did a really good job for us and we were glad to have a local company to work with,” he said.

New fiberglass light poles with LED street lights are also being installed. The old wooden light poles will be removed beginning next week.

“The LED lighting is really economical and uses a lot less power and provide better lighting,” Matlock said. “The new fiberglass poles will last longer…well, longer that you and I.”

Matlock said CPI and the City of Gering will be coordinating with WAPA next week for scheduled power outages in order finish the conversion from old to new.

The Colorado Powerline, Inc. crews have been traveling to the Gering jobsite from the Denver area, staying at Gering lodging sites.

“We have eight up here this week, all from the Denver area. They stay here and work a four-day workweek. Most of them have been staying at Monument Inn, Matlock said. “I’ve been staying in the local RV Park since July and I have family in Minatare I can visit.”

Although the power line conversion project is considered routine by the contractor’s standards, Matlock said he is pleased that the City of Gering has taken the first steps toward updating their city’s electrical and communications systems.

“Their existing system had become antiquated,” he said. “This will be a really good upgrade for the city. It will be really serviceable and the system will be here for a long, long time.”

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