New electric substation in Tell City a matter of confusion

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By The Staff

I only know what I read in the paper and I am really confused. The Tell City Electric Department announced Sept. 21 that they are planning to build a new substation on Spring Road.

Spring Road is a heavily wooded county road and is a meandering extension of Tell Street that extends to an area near the junction of new Indiana 237 and Indiana 37.

The Electric Department cites the reasons for the new substation as being:

• Future load growth surrounding the Spring Road substation location.

• The need to provide an emergency backup power to essential services in case of flooding of the existing substation site at Fifth and Jefferson.

• Relief of load on the existing substation.

There are some facts about load growth that confuse me:

• The area east of 33rd Street extended is virtually all outside the city limits and is currently served by Southern Indiana REC.

• Tell City Electric Department cannot serve the area described unless Tell City annexes the area and also secures permission from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for transfer of the right to serve.

• Tell City Electric Department would be required to compensate Southern Indiana Power for the loss of its service territory as prescribed by law.

• It is unlikely that any one of these actions will take place as the city council recently refused to follow through on a project to annex the area.

There are some facts about backup power that confuse me:

• In case of flooding in the area of the existing substation at Fifth and Jefferson, it is doubtful there would be any remaining utilities to serve. The water, sewer and floodwall pumping plants are all in that same area and undoubtedly would also be out of service in the case of flooding.

• The hospital has announced that it is moving out of the city into the county and would be served by  Southern Indiana Power unless that area is annexed and service territories transferred. That seems unlikely given the current attitude of the common council and the Tell City Electric Department claims of shortage of funds.

• An alternate source of power already exists, in the form of a tie line to the Waupaca substation. The tie line is more than adequate to serve essential services.  

There are some facts about relief of load on the existing substation that confuse me:

• Tell City's total facility load is likely to shrink rather than to increase. There is a distinct possibility that Cannelton will choose to obtain its power from a source other than by wheeling through Tell City Electric Department facilities.

• Tell City's native load is likely to shrink rather than to grow due to continued loss of industrial and commercial load. This is evidenced by the loss of Tell City Chair, General Electric and more recently the loss of William Tell Woodcrafters and Swiss Plywood.

Some additional comments are in order:

• Assuming that the council would choose to annex the areas in question, including the site of the new hospital; then a better location for the substation would be near the junction of Indiana 237 and Indiana 37. The hospital corporation owns land in that vicinity that they purchased but could not use due to existing high-voltage utility easements.

This would be a better location for several reasons:

• There is an existing high voltage line at that site that could be used as a source of primary power for the substation.

Avoiding the need for construction of a transmission line from Tell City. Existing regulations require that the owner of that power line to serve the substation.

• This would be a much better site being near the expected load center of any future growth.

• The Spring Road site is a very poor location from which extension of power lines could be accomplished. Extensive tree clearance and purchase of private rights of way would be required.

• It is certain that the construction of a new substation will result in an increase in rates and charges. I am sure the customers of Tell City Electric Department will be happy to pay for a facility that is not really necessary.

Given the real facts of the situation, there must be some other reason for the purchase of a substation site on Spring Road.

Perhaps the Tell City General Fund needs money which could be acquired from Tell City Electric Department through sale of relatively worthless land the board of works could not otherwise sell.

Joyce lives in Tell City and is retired superintendent of the Tell City Electric Department.