Landis weighs need for town hall generator

Published 12:04 am Tuesday, January 17, 2023

LANDIS — Town officials are working to secure the purchase of a generator for town hall and the central fire station.

Advocates argue it will be needed in the event of a power outage to prevent catastrophe. Opponents say the price tag is too steep.

In a close 2-1 vote, the Landis Board of Aldermen approved the purchase of a generator from R&L Enterprises for $147,300. Board member Katie Sells and Mayor Pro Tem Ashley Stewart voted to support it. Board member Darrell Overcash voted against it. Board member Tony Corriher, who had voiced opposition along with Overcash to the price tag during a previous work session, was not in attendance at the meeting.

The conversation was initiated as Landis officials addressed the possibility of a power outage that could affect town hall, which also houses a fire station. Specifically, concerns emerged over what happens if an outage prevents fire personnel from getting out of the building in response to a call.

“Our fire department helps public works every time there is a power outage,” Mayor Meredith Smith said. “When this stuff happens, everybody’s hands are on deck. It becomes an issue. We have to make sure we are covered.”

Interim public safety director Kevin Young added, “It’s not something that happens every day or even that often. When it happens, are you prepared for it? If they take an extra five or 10 minutes to get to that structure fire, someone could die in that fire.”

Young confirmed that when power has gone out, members of the fire department have been able to prop up the door manually and get the fire engine out. However, he pointed out that the methods for this exit were not advisable and involved firefighters having to stand on the truck’s bumper to raise the door high enough for it to get out.

“Safety-wise, if they fell off standing on the bumper of the truck, when you call workers comp, I am confident they would say ‘why is he standing on the bumper of a fire truck to get a door up,'” Young said. “This is not only about doors. They live here 24 hours when they are working. If there is an extended power outage for several days, what are they going to do? We have to look at all that.”

Litigation is not the only exposure that town officials were worried about. Sells expressed concern about keeping the firefighters warm and fed, so they were ready to go out on a call.

“If all the restaurants around here are closed, they need to be able to cook some food,” Sells said. “They need to be warm and cool depending on the weather.”

Young added that the emergency personnel would likely be at the station for longer than 24 hours if there is an extended power outage.

Overcash indicated that his objection to the generator was not about the inherent value of first responders but mainly about the generator’s cost versus the need for it.

“In my 22 years here, I have probably been without power for four total hours,” Overcash said. “Who thinks it’s a good idea to spend $147,000 on a generator?”

The alderman added that he would rather see a more judicious use of funding to address power outages at town hall.

However, Overcash acknowledged that sometimes things outside the town’s control could thwart its power grid.

“I’m not going to say that what happened in Moore County won’t happen here, but if someone wants to tear up something, they are going to tear it up,” Overcash said about power stations that were reportedly damaged by gunfire, disabling power to nearby residents.

In casting his vote to purchase the generator, Stewart remarked that his vote did not stem from the issue surrounding the door.

“My vote is for the human capital element that we hope never, ever arrives, and for the possibility of deflecting and providing better work conditions and reducing response times for those individuals who are having issues that need emergency personnel,” Stewart said.

While the board approved the purchase, it still has to determine how it will pay for the generator.

Ultimately, Landis tabled funding for the project until the Feb. 13 meeting, which will take place at town hall at 6 p.m.