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Power outages add stress for Marion residents

Staff writer

When many Marion residents’ power went out for a few hours March 25, it was one more factor in a week of stress and bad news.

Then it happened again Friday morning, which compounded the week’s anxiety with regional viral outbreaks, said Theron Nienstedt, who works maintenance for several rental properties around Marion.

“It’s kind of coinciding with everything else that’s going on,” he said.

The outages were caused when an electrical circuit was accidentally hit during demolition at Marion County Transfer Station, Marion electrical supervisor Clayton Garnica said.

Marion is upgrading residents from a 2,400-volt system to 7,200, which made it difficult to identify areas specifically affected by the outage, Garnica said.

“In the middle of this conversion, it’s hard to tell what certain areas of town it was in,” he said.

Areas that lost power included portions of downtown Main St., Marion’s north hill, and most houses on the south hill, Garnica said.

The 2,400-volt line was hit, so residents on the higher voltage line did not lose power.

“The hardest thing is figuring how to get the notice out to the current people,” he said. “It’s tough because there are two different voltages in town.”

Marion resident Patrick Carr wasn’t very worried, however, and said he found out because it was displayed on Marion’s electronic sign at Elm and Main Sts.

“I guess I pay more attention to it because it’s there,” he said.

Carr said he was less affected by the outage Friday since he was doing yard work at his mother’s house nearby.

“I wasn’t aware of it either time,” he said. “I thought they had it fixed Friday.”

Nienstedt first heard about the outage from tenants, who he said wondered if there were problems with electricity in their buildings.

“It’s beyond me,” he said. “That’s the city deal. But, I do appreciate always being in the know. All I do is hear it from somebody random on the street.”

There shouldn’t be further outages since the city’s main circuit was moved north from where Marion County Transfer Station’s new building will go, Garnica said.

“In the long run this was probably best to get our utilities out of the way,” he said. “That way we’re not around the transfer station or anything like that.”

Since the city crews were working north of the transfer station, residents trying to dispose of trash had to back out of the building instead of driving through, Garnica said.

The pit dug by construction workers is the intended site of the transfer station’s new building.

The circuit that was hit was only four feet underground which made repairs easier, Garnica said.

Having power out was mostly an issue for household appliances, Carr said.

“We don’t want to see it out too long because of the fridge and freezer, all the electronics,” he said.

Wednesday’s outage was an emergency situation so city crews could get power on temporarily until supplies were gathered Friday, Garnica said. Friday’s outage was to allow for repairs.

“I think everyone took it really well,” he said. “People understand that sometimes it happens, but it’s never a good thing when it happens.”

While work was being done on Marion’s power system, unrelated upgrades were being done by Union Pacific on a railroad line in the same area.

According to Union Pacific media contact Raquel Espinoza, the power outage would have no effect on railroad crossing gates.

“Our signals are all backed up,” she said. “Not at all, we want to make sure those are working 24/7.”

Last modified April 2, 2020

 

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