Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - September 2008
Copyright 2008 - Polk County Publishing Company
Preplanning paid off for City of Livingston
Polk County Enterprise - September 2008
LIVINGSTON – Livingston City Council held an emergency meeting Wednesday morning to end the curfew that was put in place after Hurricane Ike ravaged the area. City Manager Marilyn Sutton and Mayor Clarke Evans decided that with power steadily being restored to the city there was no need to continue the curfew, which was originally implemented to avoid having drivers on the road with no traffic lights and to curb looting of homes and businesses whose security systems were compromised by the power failure. Permit fees for electrical and building work are being waived if the work to be done is stormrelated. City residents who need work done must still obtain a permit for the work and have that work inspected prior to electrical service being restored. Any Texaslicensed Master Electrician can perform electrical work within city limits.
During the impromptu meeting, city leaders discussed the effects of the hurricane on the city with Mayor Evans recapping the city’s response times following the storm. The bulk of the city’s employees weathered the storm in various city buildings, from city hall to the electrical warehouse, on standby throughout the night. City workers received notification around 11:30 a.m. that wind speeds were down to 40 miles per hour. Within the hour teams comprised of city electric, fire, police and street department workers were on the streets making damage assessments within their individual areas of expertise, formulating a comprehensive overview of the work ahead of them.
The city electrical department focused on distribution channels, having lost complete transmission to the substation from Entergy around 5:45 a.m., although some areas of the city lost power earlier. As part of the city’s preplanning for hurricane season, a contract was in place with CPS Energy out of San Antonio and by Monday afternoon 24 men and 10 bucket trucks had arrived to assist city workers. The city received word Tuesday morning from Entergy that the city’s substation was re-energized and that 100 percent of the town could be brought back on line as the city made repairs to its infrastructure.
The city has two substations, one on Old Woodville Road and another along the U.S. 59 Bypass, referred to as the Ogletree substation. Circuit No. 213, powered by the Ogletree substation, was the first to have power restored, since it serves areas of special needs including nursing homes and medical facilities along the bypass to the north and west on U.S. 190 to Long King Creek. It was quickly followed by restoration of power to the areas along U.S. 59 south including HEB, Lowe’s, Brookshire Bros and the wastewater treatment plant. Bringing power back to the wastewater plant was vital to the conservation of diesel fuel for other tasks as the generator at that site was consuming 113 gallons of fuel per day. Circuits 211 and 212 were energized shortly after 5 p.m. restoring power to the city’s traffic lights, the downtown area and some residences.
Crews then moved to the northeast side of town and restored as many circuits as possible before dark, although Old Israel Road was left without power at the end of the day. All told, six circuits had some level of power restored – four completely and one partially – within the 12 hours worked by electrical crews on Tuesday. The southern circuit was the city’s goal for Wednesday, with crews confident that the bulk of power could be restored to those residents by day’s end. The hospital is served by Sam Houston Electric Cooperative rather than the city. Although SHECO was ready to restore power to the hospital on Tuesday, a delayed electrical contractor out of Lufkin prevented the facility from converting back to grid power from generator power.
There were reports that Wal-Mart faced a similar problem with its generators but confirmation of that was unavailable at press time. City Manager Sutton said that one of the greatest assets at the city’s disposal was the ability of its employees to change hats and work in different capacities as necessary. For example, Main Street Director Bob Ziegler is currently serving as a mechanic. Street Department Superintendent Hec Long had reported that his entire crew was working around the clock rather than breaking up the crew into smaller, less efficient teams – to their credit, the street department had all streets passable by the end of the day. Several of the city’s buildings received damage during the storm. City hall received roof damage and will most likely need a new roof. The Main Street office was one of the most severely damaged buildings with extensive water damage and its operations will have to be relocated until repairs are made. The Trade Days office at Pedigo Park also received significant wind damage. The privacy fencing around fire station No. 2 was obliterated.
The fence was put in place recently as the first stage of construction of a city fueling station. Also damaged was the new low-band AM radio transmission equipment installed at the station the week before the storm. Mayor Evans and City Manager Sutton were both complementary of city employees and their dedication before, during and after the hurricane. “Employees were working even though they knew their homes had been damaged,” said Evans. Sutton said the improvement in response times and overall support since Hurricane Rita three years ago has been tremendous. “Most importantly, we appreciate the citizens of Livingston for their cooperation and understanding during this time. We are extremely proud of the efforts our residents have made to help one another and our crews.”