Power issues at the courthouse and downtown Norman were the focus of the Cleveland County Commissioner's meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Oklahoma Gas and Electric representatives gave a presentation to the board about recent power outages that have temporarily shut down downtown buildings such as the courthouse and the sheriff's office. Tom McCurdy, OG&E community affairs manager, pointed to the nearly 1,300 miles of overhead power lines that run through Norman city limits, which are at risk of being interfered by trees and other vegetation.
McCurdy said Norman city officials have approached OG&E about burying the overhead power lines inside city limits, which would help decrease the risk of power outages. He said the main problem is the cost of such a project, which he estimated could reach a billion dollars.
The other problem is the city would be responsible for the majority of the costs. McCurdy said OG&E would not subsidize the costs of the project because it is a "want," not a "need." He also said 300 of the 1,600 miles of power lines are currently buried underground in Norman.
"If the City of Norman wanted us to have that done, we can do it," McCurdy said. "But it's usually very expensive to get it all engineered, prepared and then constructed. If the City of Norman and (Cleveland) County worked together and wanted to pay for it, and they wanted us to do it, we could do it. But that's something they have to decide if it's worth the money."
The presentation also emphasized the installation of Smart Meters in 2017, which has helped OG&E better identify when outages occur and the root causes. Some of the company's recent solutions have included replacing 1,000 feet of underground cable along S Santa Fe Avenue and installing trip-savers and intellirupters on some of the circuits in the city. Other options include trimming some of the vegetation in areas with a greater risk of interference.
Commissioner Darry Stacy emphasized that the recent power issues have impacted several businesses and people in town but is hopeful the problems will be resolved.
"It not only affects the offices of the commissioners, sheriffs, court clerks and others, but it also impacts our courts as well. We know it's an inconvenience," Stacy said. "OGE looks like they are looking for solutions and they are addressing some of the issues. Going forward, we're confident we will have more continuity of service."