Pierz turns to Minnesota Power for electrical maintenance as Crow Wing pulls out

By Terry LehrkeNews Editor

Crow Wing Power has served the city of Pierz, maintaining its power lines and poles for 16 years. However, with the retirement of Jerry Van Kuren, the company has decided to discontinue its service.

Moving forward, the city is looking to contract with Minnesota Power for the service. After all, it purchases electricity from Minnesota Power to resell to its residents.

The Council reviewed the proposed contract Monday night. Council Members Mike Menden and Don Bujalski, as well as Public Works Supervisor Bob Ottremba and City Administrator Scott Saehr met with representatives from Minnesota Power, May 2.

Should the city move forward and contract with Minnesota Power, how things are done will be a bit different.

Otremba said that Minnesota Power inspects its poles every 10 years, just as the city has and just did in 2011. However, Minnesota Power would inspect the poles again, contracting with an engineer to inspect the poles to its specifications.

The company will also install a global position system (GPS) device on each pole as well as a bar code. This allows the company to electronically monitor the location of every pole and a simple scan would give a lineman all the information needed about that particular pole. The GPS is also a starting point for the mapping system Minnesota Power will put into place in the future.

Otremba said a mapping system will allow Minnesota Power to gather the size of the wires and determine the direction electricity is coming from, the size of transformers, the number of customers on each transformer and so on.

There is no charge to the city for this work, but the GPS information stays with Minnesota Power.

The biggest thing, Otremba said, is that during an outage when lines are down, Minnesota Power will be able to determine which fuse to turn off before working on the lines.

“Linemen will know when they come to town, because each will have a computer and can pull the information out of the system,” said Otremba. “It’s identical to what they’re used to in Minnesota Power’s system, which we’ve never had. It’s a huge benefit and huge safety issue.”

“I think we should move ahead and say we’re going to have them as of Jan. 1, so when they take over there’s not a glitch,” said Menden.

The Council discussed the city’s cost to convert 11 households in city limits to city electricity. Those households, located on the east side of Park Avenue from the Pierz Park south to 143rd Street, currently buy electricity directly from Minnesota Power.

The city’s cost to buyout those 11 poles is estimated at $94,000; $21,000 for installation of the correct electrical wires to run off the city’s power and $73,000 for Minnesota Power’s estimated loss of revenue over 10 years. Those residents  would then become customers of the city of Pierz, not Minnesota Power directly.

City residents pay a lower rate to the city for electricity than they do to Minnesota Power.

City Administrator Scott Saehr said the only hidden cost for the city may be in choosing which road the city crosses with lines.

The city will also have to dispose of transformers, since Minnesota Power will not take care of that.

“We have to have a plan if there would be an oil leak from those,” said Council Member Stephanie Fyten.

The Electrical Committee was asked to gather additional information and make a contract recommendation.

“If you see anything that needs to be added, or concerns, it would be nice to see a final agreement,” said Mayor Toby Egan.

Menden noted Minnesota Power would like to know soon, to have time over the summer to work on the GPS systems.

Pierz City Council Briefs


In other business, the Pierz City Council:

•Approved the donation of the park shelter for the Pierz Legion Auxiliary’s veterans picnic July 14;

• Set the date for an administrative committee meeting as Monday, June 9, at 5 p.m., prior to the City Council meeting;

• Approved crack sealing on streets throughout the city at a cost of $6,997 with work done by Mike Schaefer Sealcoating, as presented by Public Works Superintendent Bob Otremba. Otremba said the city budgets $7,000 per year. Otremba also indicated he put out bids for chip sealing, but received just one bid that was higher than he expected and is considering sending bids out again;

• Discussed briefly work needed on Peter Avenue, a street built in 1963. Otremba noted that it is a part of the city’s capital improvement plan and that an engineer’s survey of the catch basins would be needed, as well as whether the water line underneath the road needs to be replaced as part of the project. Otremba plans to put together ballpark figures for the project;

•Approved advertising for part-time help for Otremba during the summer months, two days per week;

•Heard from Golf Course and Park Superintendent Daniel Baert that the Pierz campgrounds will soon be open and approved the hiring of Mariah and Megan Hoheisel as staff at the clubhouse; and

•Approved purchase agreements with Midwest Sales and Construction and Pierz Sanitation for property in the Industrial Park, with each business paying $275.90 in closing costs.

The next Pierz City Council meeting is Tuesday, May 27, at 7 p.m. at City Hall.