‘The people and businesses of Platte City deserve reliable electricity’
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first entry in a two-part series focusing on frequent power outages in a major portion of Platte City)
Electrical provider Evergy is catching some static from frustrated consumers in Platte City.
In recent months, power outages in Platte City that some customers and government officials are considering too frequent and too lengthy have spurred complaints. Those complaints have been spoken in public online forums by customers and spoken in person to Evergy representatives by local government officials.
Problems with reliability of electrical service to customers in Platte City is not a new concern. Outages in recent years in the downtown business district have been frequent. Some customers say they believe the problem is getting more frequent. An unofficial count by some Evergy customers in Platte City indicates there have been four outages of about eight hours or more over the course of the past six months.
The general area of the city that has been hit with frequent outages can be described as north of Hwy. 92 into downtown and south of Hwy. 92 along the Second and Fourth Street corridors. It is essentially everything west of the Platte County R-3 campus, city officials say.
Platte City serves as the county seat and as such is home to the Platte County Courthouse where court proceedings for the Sixth Judicial Circuit are held, the Platte County Administration building home to the county’s administrative offices, and the county juvenile services office.
Frustrated by the inconsistent service, Platte County officials have met multiple times with Evergy officials over the past year to express concerns. Business owners in Platte City’s downtown business district have also expressed concern, both to Evergy and to city officials in hopes of City Hall carrying their complaints to the electrical company.
“Several people in county government and city government have been pushing Evergy to make our electricity more resilient to smaller problems for many months,” Joe Vanover, second district county commissioner, confirmed after an inquiry from The Landmark.
The county commissioner said the county jail has an emergency generator “since we can’t tell everyone inside to go home when the power goes out.”
As for the county courthouse and the county administration building, it’s a different story.
“The courthouse and administration building have only enough power for emergency lights when electricity in downtown Platte City goes out,” Vanover remarked.
Vanover said he and DJ Gehrt, city administrator for the City of Platte City, and I talked about the problem a year ago this month.
“We discussed it again this past January,” Vanover said.
The full three-member county commission met with several Evergy employees on Feb. 22 to discuss a separate issue, and Vanover says the full county commission discussed the problems with electricity at the courthouse complex again in March. Then on May 9, Vanover, Gehrt, and Daniel Erickson, the county’s manager of facilities, met with Janet Waddell, a local Evergy representative, “to again ask for more reliable electricity in Platte City,” Vanover says.
“I read to Janet a letter from Platte County Presiding Circuit Court Judge Thomas Fincham about the need for consistent and reliable power supply for the court to operate,” Vanover says.
The full county commission again discussed electricity on Tuesday, May 31, according to Vanover. May 31 was a day in which there was not a major storm, but there was an extended power outage in the downtown district, disrupting nearly the entire business day for many businesses and the government offices.
“I appreciate Evergy’s willingness to hear our complaints and work to improve power reliability,” Vanover added.
Vanover, who worked in the county prosecutor’s office for many years before he became an elected official, is long familiar with the electrical problems in downtown Platte City.
“During my 14 years as an assistant prosecutor, there were too many times that the courthouse went dark for no good reason. We understand that the electricity may go out during a major storm. But it was terribly frustrating when the power would go out and the skies were clear and the sun was shining,” Vanover told The Landmark.
“The people and businesses of Platte City deserve reliable electricity,” Vanover added.
In anticipation of doing a story on the frequent outages, The Landmark sent an email to Gehrt, city administrator, late in the day on June 7. The email asked if there were plans by the city to put pressure on Evergy to improve reliability. Coincidentally, before Gehrt could answer that email the next day the city had been hit with another power outage, although this outage, unlike many of the previous, was caused by a severe storm that caused obvious damage in many parts of Platte City.
“Ironic you should ask this question,” Gehrt answered the next day after the major storm had blown through and forced extended outages in Platte City. “A number of problem trees were removed overnight (due to the high winds of the storm),” Gehrt said.
“As Evergy has identified tree interference as the largest single contributor to reliability problems on the downtown Platte City circuit, the storm may have some bright side by reducing the number/size of trees adjacent to power lines,” Gehrt said.
Geht went on to comment that the city, in a meeting that included Vanover from the county commission, “Evergy committed to a full tree trimming program in Platte City this summer/fall. They are also rehabbing substations feeding Platte City, although not the substation at the orange water tower along Hwy. 92.”
The city administrator indicated the city was told that rehab work should be done by October.
Gehrt indicated the only area north of Hwy. 92 that is not affected by the outages that have drawn the ire of Evergy customers is the Knighton Heights subdivision, which is located north of City Hall. That subdivision area appears to be fed from a different service line that does not cut through the heart of town, Gehrt said.
Gehrt said the areas of Platte City affected by the frequent power outages are the old/original town generally defined as north of Hwy. 92/downtown and south of Hwy. 92 along the Second and Fourth Street corridors (essentially everything west of the Platte County R-3 campus).
(NEXT WEEK: Evergy’s responses to Landmark questions about the reliability of electrical service in Platte City)