March 2021 Fort Pierre Mayor's Report
After a mostly mild winter, the recent cold snap (that term doesn't do justice to a week or more of miserable sub-zero weather) jerked us back to reality. And while few of us native Midwesterners actually enjoy frigid weather, we don't suffer nearly as much as our southern neighbors because we are equipped. Not necessarily prepared, but equipped with appropriate wardrobe, well-insulated homes, 4-wheel drive vehicles, and - my topic of the day - infrastructure designed for extreme weather.
More than thirty years ago, the Fort Pierre City Council, Mayor and staff worked on a plan for an electric plant that would give the City the capability to generate electricity for emergencies, not only for our own residents, but for the larger grid of electric users when necessary.
Bob Ricketts is retiring after about 40 years on the Council, and is the only individual among council member or staff who participated in making the decision to build the Generation Station, so we asked him at our last Council meeting whether the issue was a controversial one. His memory was that it wasn't controversial, that electrical service wasn't all that reliable at the time and many people had home generators for backup.
The City received funds from MRES (Missouri River Energy Services) to cover the cost and Fort Pierre residents have been paying an electrical surcharge for the past 30 years to build the gen station. In return, we have all benefited from the reliable source of energy. In this last situation, we were asked by MRES to start our gen station to assist with a power shortage. Starting the generators and running them periodically doesn't come without cost. For each 24-hour period, the generators consume about 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel. But the three generators produce enough energy to meet the needs of the entire city of Fort Pierre, and excess power to provide to the grid.
Knowing how big a decision that investment would have been 30-plus years ago, I have deep respect for the city leaders who had the foresight to build our Generation Station. As a resident, it gives me great comfort to know that backup system is in place. And for those of you who weren't even aware of Fort Pierre's Generation Station, it is the brick building just west of Highway 14-34, across from Casey's General Store. Most people have never noticed it. Its modest appearance belies its importance to Fort Pierre residents.