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MUC sends crew to Wadena

Much of Wadena was in ruin following a powerful tornado that ripped through the small town and its surrounding area two weeks ago. Dave Wallis / The Forum

WILLMAR -- Willmar Municipal Utilities was one of many municipal utilities in the state that sent employees to provide mutual aid and help restore power to the tornado-ravaged city of Wadena.

The Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association called for mutual aid after the tornado struck Wadena on June 17 and crews from Willmar, Moorhead, Sauk Centre, Elk River, Detroit Lakes, Melrose and other utilities answered the call.

Two Willmar linemen, Zach Larson and Casey Jenny, and a double-bucket truck left Willmar at 4:30 a.m. on June 20 and returned to Willmar at 10 p.m. said Jeff Kimpling, manager of electric services for Willmar Utilities.

Bruce Gomm, Willmar Utilities general manager, said Wadena's municipal system is in pretty good shape overall.

"Our crew that went up there did a great job. They got great comments from (the association) about how well they performed and how pleasant they were,'' Gomm told the Municipal Utilities Commission during the regular meeting Monday.

Kimpling said the time spent by the Willmar crew will be billed to Wadena, which hopes to qualify for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In other business Monday, Gomm reported that Willmar and the Kandiyohi Power Cooperative of Spicer are investigating the potential for a joint solar project, which is being modeled after a project in Colorado.

Gomm said customers of Willmar and the cooperative will be surveyed for their interest in financially participating in the project. Willmar will have the survey on its website. Gomm said both Willmar and the co-op are looking for customers to commit to a level of participation.

"It really comes down to whether we can get customer participation or not,'' Gomm said. "It's not economically viable for us to do ourselves. But with the customers' participation and having an outside source initially install the project and get the tax credits that could be received through it, it is actually a viable project. So we're in the process of looking at doing something there.''

Also Monday, staff electrical engineer Wes Hompe reported that Jeron Smith of Spicer has been hired as assistant engineer. Smith is a graduate of the University of Minnesota-Duluth and worked as an intern at Willmar Utilities. He worked at Relco of Willmar and is currently employed by Rambow of New London.

The commission voted in April to create the position. Officials said the position would save thousands of dollars that would otherwise be paid to outside engineering consultants to work on electrical systems and power plant upgrades and projects.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150