By Rick Palsgrove
Weather emergencies can wreak havoc with electrical power and Groveport city officials are considering obtaining a generator that could be used to create a place of refuge for residents during times of extended power outages.
“A generator is a good option to have and I hope we wouldn’t have to use it,” said Mayor Lance Westcamp.
He recalled a bad winter ice storm a few years ago that knocked out electric power in part of the city and many residents came to the Groveport Recreation Center to escape their unheated homes.
Councilwoman Jean Ann Hilbert said that during power outages the city needs to have a place of refuge for citizens when such an emergency occurs.
“With our last power outage, we had clients (in the recreation center) who were working out, in showers, trying to get to work and no power, as well as half our town without power,” said Hilbert. “With the resources we have as a city, our residents should not experience such an inconvenience. It’s unacceptable we haven’t followed through on a generator before this, and I’m as much to blame as any council member. I’m going to my best to rectify the situation by the end of the year and pray we don’t have the need before that.”
Hilbert added city officials also must look at the needs of the community and provide for a safe haven in case of a catastrophe.
Council President pro-tem Ed Dildine added that a community emergency haven plan that involves the city of Groveport, Madison Township, and Groveport Madison Schools would be beneficial.
“My thoughts are just to make sure we aren’t duplicating services and to get the best bang for our buck and everyone is working together,” said Dildine. “We need to make sure our comprehensive disaster plan stays up to date, which Madison Township is a part of. I don’t believe the schools are a part of that plan.”
Dildine said the current plan states the Red Cross will come in and assist with the determination of “refuge” sites.
“I don’t have any particular sites in mind, but we need to ensure they have enough space for cots, water, restrooms, kitchen facilities and so on, which is all part of what Red Cross does,” said Dildine. “It’s necessary to do as much as possible within reason to assist our residents when disaster strikes.”
City Administrator Marsha Hall said the city does not have an officially designated emergency haven. She said the levels of official response to an emergency depends on the type of emergency and the number of people affected. She said the state and county are prepared to respond when emergency events of a large scale happen or if an instance is declared as a “state of emergency.”
Hall said in 2009 the city of Groveport considered purchasing a permanent electric generator that could be placed at the recreation center and could power the whole building. She said the cost at that time for such a generator was around $300,000 because the electrical service to the rec center would also have to be upgraded to handle the generator so the city decided not to move forward. She estimated the cost today to be about $400,000.
Councilman Shawn Cleary suggested the city could look into purchasing a portable generator that could be moved around the city by truck.
“You have more options when you can move it,” said Cleary. “It could be used to provide power to our sewer lift stations, maybe a traffic light, or other areas in the city as necessary.”
Hall said she did not have information on what a portable generator would cost at this time. She said officials would also have to look at which portions of the recreation center could be powered by a smaller portable generator.
Hall said a city generator would most likely not be employed for short term power outages, such as one that lasts a few hours.
“The power in the area would have to be out for a lengthy period of time,” said Hall. “We’d also have to look at things like the time of year and the type of emergency and its effects.”
Council will discuss the potential purchase of a generator when it begins its budget talks in the fall.