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Larned City Council considers payout to residents affected by power surge
More time needed to determine damages
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Larned Junior Rotarian Erin Tims reported on the Junior City Council trip to the parks department at the Larned City Council meeting Monday night. The rest of the junior city council for 2018-2019 were introduced. They will include Madeline Hamrick, Kaden Herman, Kaylyn Snodgrass, Sophie Skelton and Carter Crosby. - photo by Veronica Coons

LARNED — Residents of one Larned neighborhood attended the city council meeting Monday night to weigh in with their accounts of how a preventable power surge on Wednesday, Sept. 5 damaged their electronics. They hoped to learn more details concerning how the city plans to make them whole once more. But, it will be at least a few weeks before they adjusters have enough information for the council to make a determination, they learned.  

On the evening of Sept. 5, workers with the city’s electrical distribution department responded to a power outage that occurred in one isolated part of the city. According to Randy Parker, the superintendent for that department, they determined in the field a secondary transformer needed to be replaced. Parker was by himself, and decided he needed to call for some help. He asked the other worker to pick up a replacement transformer at the city shop. 

Normally, Parker said, two individuals would be sent to pick up the part, because it is an involved process of getting off the truck, picking up the transformer, checking it, putting it on the truck and bringing to the location for installation.  That evening they were short handed. 

“The transformers all look the same,” Parker said. 

Instead of having a second set of eyes on hand to verify the correct transformer was selected, the one worker simply snapped a photo of the nameplate on the transformer and returned to the field, intending to use the photo to identify the transformer for paperwork purposes later. 

The two men completed the repair, and continued on to the next location in need of attention. Soon after, residents in the affected area began observing unusual activity from their electronics. Parker said he received reports that lights were getting brighter, ovens were getting hotter, and more. He and his companion returned to where they repaired the transformer and learned that instead of installing one that pulled only 120 volts, they had installed a 240 volt secondary transformer. 

“Basically, we sent double the voltage into the houses,” he said. This effectively damaged and destroyed electrical components of many appliances and other electronics, heating and cooling systems and lights throughout the homes. Homeowners weren’t aware until after the damage was done. 

The city acknowledged the fault lay with them, and the city’s insurance representatives were called and claims initiated by all 12 of the affected homeowners.  

Cassidy Smith, the EMC insurance group representative, explained in Kansas, liability claims can only pay out actual cash value for damaged items. But, the company’s adjuster had been instructed to be very generous in determining value, he said. Repairs would be paid 100 percent, he said. Items to be replaced would only be “dinged about 20 percent.” 

Some of the claims had already been closed, he said, while some homeowners preferred to wait until they could determine all damage had been detected. That’s fine, he added, noting that the company will allow claims to remain open for about two to three months. No money will be paid out until the homeowner signs off on the adjusted amount. 

Homeowners were reluctant at first to address the council with their damages, but eventually opened up. Differences between ACV and replacement costs for appliances did not seem out of line to some, but others with newer appliances were dissatisfied. They felt the adjustments were too low, and noted the adjuster may not have taken the time to record actual serial and model numbers, opting instead to snap photos of items. Cassidy assured them that if they were not satisfied with their claim, they could appeal it, and provide documentation for value if there is a discrepancy. 

The point of the discussion, Mayor William Nuser pointed out, was for the city to determine a ballpark amount that represents the gap between ACV and replacement cost so the city could plan to make up at least some of the difference. 

Sharon McGuinness, council person representing Ward 4, thanked the homeowners at the meeting for their patience and graciousness in allowing the city to sort out what to do. It was determined that a special meeting would be called in two to three weeks to determine a dollar amount the city could agree to. This would allow homeowners more time to work with the city’s insurance adjuster to determine damages. 

Here’s a quick look at what happened Monday night at the Larned City Council meeting:

• Approved the consent agenda which included minutes from the September meeting, and approval of to amendments to the city’s cemetery policy pertaining to number and placement of headstones and/or footstones. 

• Introduced the 2018-2019 slate of Junior City Council members. They will include: Mayor Madeline Hamrick; City Manager Kaden Herman; Ward 1, Kaylyn Snodgrass; Ward 2, Erin Tims; Ward 3, Sophie Skelton and Ward 4, Carter Crosby. Tims reported on the council’s visit to the water and parks departments this week, and gave a pop-quiz on how many gallons of water the Larned Public Poll contains. 

• Heard a request from the Pawnee County Humane Society concerning the need for continued funding to cover budget shortfalls. After a lengthy conversation and despite numerous written recommendations from supporters of the organization, the discussion was tabled until complete financials are made available to the council.  

• Heard from city electrical distribution workers, the city’s insurance representative and affected residents concerning a preventable power surge that happened in September, and progress being made to make residents whole. The discussion was tabled for a few weeks until insurance claims are closer to completion so council can determine the gap between actual and replacement costs to pay out to victims. 

• Approved a resolution to condemn and replace a sidewalk on the north side of 423 Broadway, in front of Mabel’s café. The building is owned by Kerry Max and Donna Jane Galliart. This will allow the city to bring the sidewalk up to ADA standards. 

• Approved a bid by Eakins Enterprises for $8,911.35 to complete work on the sidewalk at 423 Broadway, provided the owners do not make corrective actions. 

• Approved recommending the Pawnee County Appraiser renew the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan(s) for another period, but also combine both the county and the city plans together into one for ease of understanding and administering. The current NRP is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2018. 

• Approved contract with Utility HelpNet for engineering services related to automation of the Power Plant at a cost not to exceed $27,000.

• Appointed Kyle Beckwith to the Airport Board to replace John Adams.

• Considered an amendment to the Contract for Airport Services increasing the monthly compensation to Gross Flying Services to $1,600. The discussion was tabled to a future meeting when members from the Airport Board can attend to discuss the reason for proposed increase in funding. 

• The city has been awarded $780,000 for a road project through the state that will include 890 feet from east edge of bridge to Trail Street. The council approved allowing the city manager to sign documents for receipt of the funding, and approved a contract with Benesch Consulting Services.