HSUD tackles outages, upgrades
“We’ve kind of had a run of bad luck,” said Holly Springs Utility Department General Manager Bill Stone, referencing a spate of outages in October.
Some customers in Benton County have recently had four outages of electricity lasting an hour or more, he said. The four outages were completely unrelated.
The day after Columbus Day (October 10) the 46 KV line from Ashland to Holly Springs had an outage around 8:30 a.m. and came back on about 11:30, Stone said.
The next outage was in the Town of Ashland. It was caused by a short in a residential transformer out in an area off the road. Stone said it took much more time to find the cause of the outage than to repair it. The affected area was in the center of Ashland, and north and southeast of town.
There was an outage in Holly Springs that initially looked like it could have been caused by an animal getting into the circuitry. The fault was found to be at the south Holly Springs substation. The outage likely was due to lines down at a local industry taking place at 3 a.m., Stone said.
Then there was a planned outage Monday, Oct. 30. Workers had combed the lines connecting Holly Springs to Ashland and found three crossarms that were broken and one that was cracked.
The four crossarms were on three different poles, two near Holly Springs and one in the Martin Flat area of Benton County. The outage was planned at midnight and it took about an hour and 20 minutes to make the repairs, Stone said.
“I hope this will keep everything going until we go on the 161 KV line,” Stone said.
This is the new line that is being built by the Tennessee Valley Authority to carry power from Holly Springs to the Ashland substation. The 15 miles of 161 KV line are expected to be completed by TVA in September 2018. This new line will be cut over to the Ashland substation when the upgrades at the substation are also completed.
TVA is spending about $17 million on this new 161 KV line and HSUD will spend about $2.5 million to upgrade the Ashland substation. The two projects go hand in glove and will improve reliability of service for the area for years to come.
“The upgrade will make the system more robust,” Stone said.
Also, a 161 KV switch has to be replaced at the north Holly Springs substation. The substation is ready for the installation as soon as the switch comes in.
No other major construction is planned at this time, Stone said.
Some features of the automatic meter reading (AMI) system are not up and running yet, but Stone said the bringing up of the system is going in the right direction. Most of what is needed on the electric side has to do with online customer portal and outage detection that GE has not yet made available, Stone said.
The public wants the portal but the outage detection system is the first priority, Stone said.
“That will greatly enhance our ability to quickly locate the cause of outages and know how many customers are affected,” he said.
Then the number two priority is the consumer portal which allows a customer to look at what electricity they are using in near real time.
The third priority of the public seems to be the rollout of the prepay feature which allows a customer to buy electricity as they go. The prepay system helps those customers who find waiting until the bill arrives is too late for them to gauge the amount of power they are using and cut back if they need to in order to make their monthly or weekly or bimonthly budgets work in their favor.
“For the prepay, we have most of the infrastructure in place but we don’t have the necessary billing systems (a part of the GE contract) yet,” Stone said.
In the area of customer service, he said feedback indicates customers are happier with the service they get from HSUD than in the past.
“I get way more compliments than complaints,” Stone said. “Our goal is to give the best service possible and we’re working hard to try to do that.”
HSUD has about 11,500 electric customers located in Marshall, Benton and Lafayette counties in Mississippi, and Fayette and Hardeman counties in Tennessee.
There are about 2,700 gas customers in Marshall County and 3,600 water customers located in Holly Springs, Red Banks, on Bicycle Road and on Highway 4 East to Ashland.
There are about 2,000 sewer customers, most of which are inside the Holly Springs City Limits, he said.
HSUD is hoping to expand water and gas service in the next five to 10 years. Many of the rural customers want natural gas, he said, which is cheaper than propane.