• Battery back-up for sump pump may be cheaper option
BROOKINGS – Two power outages within two months of moving into the new Brookings City & County Government Center has brought the building’s managing group, the Joint Powers Board (JPB), back to discussion of installing a backup generator. JPB members decided Thursday that they will seek out the information needed to make an informed decision on the purchase, which is expected to cost $225,000-$250,000.
The possibility of a generator was discussed early in the planning process for the joint government center, and the city council decided it did not want to pursue the idea.
But the building is not completely vulnerable in a power outage: battery backup will keep the security system running and will protect the server and other electronics.
Also, an alarm company will call designated employees in the event of a power outage. (This time it called an employee at 2 a.m., and he had to come in and find out what had triggered the alarm.)
What is vulnerable is the sump pump system, which runs constantly to protect the building from taking in water from a high water table on the site. Following a July outage that employees believe left the building (and other buildings in its neighborhood) without power for about an hour, an employee spent three hours cleaning up water in the basement mechanical area.
Brookings County Commission member Alan Gregg began the discussion Thursday by saying the two outages were troubling, and he feels the board should look into getting a generator.
“For what all is housed in here, I think it’s kind of a no-brainer that we try to put together a location for a generator, a price for it, and figure out how we’re wired downstairs, make sure the sump pumps will hook onto it and any internal wiring we may have to do,” Gregg said.
“Come up with a price, come back to this board, run it through here and then decide if we’re going to move forward. And then, it would have to go to the two individual boards. If it’s in the $250,000 range, I think the county would step up for their part of that.”
Power outages are not common in Brookings, City Manager Jeff Weldon and Brookings Mayor Tim Reed said. So, the board should consider carefully how often it would need a generator.
“It’s very unusual in Brookings to have power go down for that length of time,” Reed said. “... I think we need to proceed cautiously and also talk to the utilities and say ‘What’s the chances of this happening?’
“And then also, take a look at long-term,” he added. “Is this going to be an emergency site if the whole town does go down on power ...? Because we’ve talked about that our emergency operations would be in the public safety building. And so, are we spending our money at the right place? Or do we need to actually think about doing that downstairs here now? I think we need to go through this in a pretty deliberate fashion.”
Commissioner Dennis Falken agreed that whether the building will be used as a shelter in times of emergency is an important piece of the generator discussion. He said the board should get information about several back-up options, not just the full-sized generator. If a battery back-up for the sump pump would be sufficient, the remaining contingency money might cover it. The contingency money would not be enough to cover a full-sized generator.
Is it necessary?
Weldon asked the board to consider whether it is really necessary for the building to be fully operational during a power outage.“If we lose power, I think the important thing is we take care of building security and safety, and the sump pump is one of them,” he said. .
“If we can’t issue a renewal on a license plate, if we can’t issue a building permit because of that – we lose power – so what? Why do we have to spend a quarter of $1 million to make sure that we can continue to do all our business and have absolutely no inconvenience? The cost benefit, I don’t think is there.”
Council member John Kubal agreed that actual damage to the building is the largest issue, not inconvenience.
JPB members voted unanimously to seek out further information on a generator and battery backup for the sump pumps. Weldon and Commission Assistant Steph-anie Ellwein will do the legwork and report back to the JPB.
Contact Charis Prunty at firstname.lastname@example.org.