City Council Approves GI Water, Electric System Studies

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

With about 50,000 customers, Utility Director Tim Luchsinger says Grand Island has to look at future growth while keeping the power on and the water flowing.

The city is paying over $250,000 for an electric study and over $66,000 for a water study that will help the department make electric and water master plans with those goals in mind.

"We think we're poised for growth, we think we've got capacity at least for the foreseeable future, but it helps to bring someone in and make sure we're looking at the right things, or we aren't overlooking something," says Luchsinger.

Reviews, studies, and planning are used for more than just city electricity and water - Public Works Director John Collins says they already have drainage improvement projects underway, and his department will unveil a comprehensive plan for that system in the next few months.

"Rather than simply building a detention cell to take care of one problem, or a ditch to take care of one problem that may actually shift the problem over, you move the water through the whole city," says Collins.

He says a safety study of the Highway 281 corridor that includes Diers, Webb, and all the cross-streets in between, is another study-then-plan example. Collins calls it a guide for smaller projects that will change signal lights and fix poorly-laid out turning lanes.

"It'll take years to build out once you have the plan, but you know where you're going," he says.

Unlike the public safety study Grand Island paid for two years ago that looked at the police and fire departments, the water and electric system plans focus on infrastructure, not personnel.

"My biggest concern is that I want to make sure that we see the forest and not just the trees," says Luchsinger.

He says they will be working collaboratively with an Omaha firm on the water system plan, and with a Kansas firm on the electric system plan. He believes that will make their decisions stronger since they won't just be receiving a report.

"This isn't a case where it's someone coming in and telling us what we should do - it's going to be a collaborative type of a thing where we're working with them and agreeing on what our path to the future should be," says Luchsinger.

"It's like getting your haircut, if you just sit down in the chair, let them do whatever they want, no telling how you'll walk out," says Collins. "If you tell them exactly what you want, that's what you get."

The water and electric reports should be done in about a year, but Luchsinger says they're hoping to have some feedback to help with budgeting next summer.

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