Sen. Tom Harkin's office has announced Jan. 31 that over $5.6 million has been awarded, through FEMA, to Pella Cooperative Electric.
The money, according to the release, is intended to be used to strengthen electrical delivery lines (128 miles' worth) in Marion and surrounding counties.
“This assistance will help the Pella Cooperative Electric Association improve its service and reliability to help ensure that Iowa’s rural residents receive their electricity in a safe and efficient manner,” said Harkin. “I congratulate the REC on this federal grant and look forward to the improvements it will generate for these counties.”
John Smith, CEO of PCE, said the money will be used as part of the company's mitigation process. The lines will be strengthened to try to avoid problems with the lines in the future, due to ice, snow and wind. PCE has three years to use the grant and complete the project.
The total cost of the upgrades is $7.4 million. PCE is paying a portion of the difference, as is the State of Iowa.
The money will be used to purchase heavier poles, heavier wire and other equipment to withstand weather. PCE continually maintains its lines each year, based upon what the budget will allow. Without the grant, the work that will be done in three years would have taken 10. PCE will use its own crews to do the work.
Smith said there is a plan in place, but PCE was waiting for final approval. He, nor PCE Board member Sam Nichols, was aware of the grant award until contacted by the Chronicle.
Because of the work being done to the lines, there is potential for temporary outages. Smith said PCE will reroute power to avoid this as much as possible. If a power interruption cannot be avoided, PCE will provide advanced notice to customers.
A meeting is planned with PCE's consultants to set a starting date. A timeline of where and when the lines will have work done is expected to follow.