City of Tonawanda government offices at 200 Niagara St. will close early, at 4 p.m. Friday, and will remain closed through Tuesday, March 21 for repairs to the main power line to City Hall. During the closure, the city will install a new emergency generator to replace one that is 50 years old.
In late May, when an underground power line failed, one-quarter of the city lost power – including City Hall and the police station on Niagara Street. At that time the city found out how unprepared its back-up generator was to handle the emergency. The generator didn't fully restore power to the police department's dispatch center.
Police Capt. Frederic Foels said at the time that the department needed to have something reliable to bring it up to full speed in case of an outage.
Mayor Rick Davis said Frey Electric was awarded the bid to put in the new generator. The contractor discovered that "likely for decades" water had been seeping into the conduit where the main electrical line goes underneath a parking lot into city hall.
That increased the scope of the project from replacing the generator to replacing the main power feed from a utility pole to the building. It also increased the cost, from a one-day $100,000 project to a multiple day, $225,000 project.
"(Frey) felt that if it pulled on that (electrical) line it would just crumble," said Davis. "The previous generator was installed in 1967 and was well past its life expectancy. The generator was not up to the task and we had to bring in supplemental generators just to keep the 911 system going."
City offices will shut down for the repair and police dispatch will move to city fire headquarters on Williams Street. Most of the calls will be routed to the fire headquarters or through the Town of Tonawanda police department, said Davis.
Davis called the scheduled outage a good "training drill" to make sure everything runs smoothly in the event there was a real police emergency involving its 911 dispatch system.