Westar looks to improve LaHarpe

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October 9, 2014 - 12:00 AM

LAHARPE — LaHarpe heard an emphatic mea culpa from Westar representatives Wednesday.
Westar’s area wholesale customer manager Suzanne Lane, regional director Scott Hildebrandt and electric distribution supervisor Mark Wollenberg were at Wednesday’s City Council meeting to discuss steps the utility giant has taken to curb the recent epidemic of power outages.
“We believe our electricity should be fast, safe and reliable,” Lane said. “We’ve struggled with the reliability part.”
Westar counted 11 outages affecting LaHarpe so far in 2014, Hildebrandt said. “That’s not acceptable.”
Some of the outages could be blamed on inclement weather, but not all.
The aging power grid has been plagued by equipment failures that weren’t necessarily weather related.
“It’s an old system,” Wollenberg admitted. “And it’s not only LaHarpe that’s affected.”
Since 2013, crews have replaced some of the older lines and worn equipment, Hildebrandt said, particularly since the spate of outages over the summer.
Conditions have improved, “but it isn’t where it needs to be,” he said. “Heavy rains shouldn’t knock you out.”
Crews have recently trimmed trees along several lines connecting LaHarpe to the Allen and LaHarpe substations south of town.
Likewise, Westar installed a quality power recorder at the edge of town to note immediately whether a power outage is on LaHarpe’s side of the grid, or Westar’s, Lane said.
Westar also is in the midst of installing software to better allow the city and utility giant to monitor electricity flow through the grid.
“We’re gonna try our darnedest” to eliminate the outages, Hildebrant said. “We know actions speak louder than words.”
Lane also talked about steps taken to improve the lines of communication between the city and Westar.

COUNCIL MEMBERS said they would wait and see how Iola’s new dog leash laws work before deciding if LaHarpe needs to enact something similar.
Iola recently passed a new policy that limits the tethering of dogs outdoors to one hour at a time.
Such a policy would be difficult to enforce in LaHarpe, Councilwoman Mae Crowell noted.
While Crowell is empathetic to the plight of dogs on chains, she said the city should remain focused on cruelty to animals. Some tethered dogs, she said, are properly sheltered with abundant supplies of food and water.
Those animals’ owners shouldn’t be penalized, Crowell said.

LAHARPE will host a community forum hosted by USD 257 to discuss proposed construction of new elementary and high schools on the north edge of Iola.
The meeting will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 at City Hall.
Other such forums are scheduled for tonight at Lincoln Elementary School and Oct. 30 at McKinley Elementary School. Both will start at 7 o’clock.

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