City utility line maintenance crews take on ancillary tasks

With the wetter-than-normal summer, the growth of trees within the city limits has presented a problem that has sidetracked electric crews from their normal daily routines. What was originally going to be an aggressive tree trimming program by the city to clear power lines has now taken on a dual purpose. Keeping trees away from power lines helps the efficiency of the electric lines as well as minimizes damage when strong winds and storms blow through town. With the heavier-than-normal limbs sagging lower and lower, the city streets that are used as bus routes have become hazardous for school bus travel due to the low-hanging limbs. For that reason, city crews have refocused their efforts from just clearing lines to actually making entire streets passable by bus. “This is something the school district made us aware of a few weeks ago, and we are doing our best to get a jump on some of the more highly traveled streets,” said electric department supervisor Randy Barrows. “With the number of power lines that run along these routes, it is not as simple as sending a bucket truck down the street with someone in the lift with a saw. We have to be very careful about how the limbs are trimmed and who does the work.” The electric crews are currently spending large portions of their work days clearing lines and travel corridors so the buses can pass without being damaged. Some of the personnel resources from the streets department have been reallocated to assist them in chipping the trimmings. “We still have our regular utility work that we have to get done, but this is a project that has to be addressed,” said Barrows. “With the weather and the growth of the trees this summer, it is a job that could be set aside for a full-time tree trimming crew, but we are having to make due with the personnel we have. Keeping the trees off of the power lines is key to efficient electric service.” The trimming route began on China Street and worked south toward Brady Elementary. From there, parallel streets have been targeted and the efforts will continue on streets that are known to have significant bus traffic. The actual bus routes that will run once school begins will not be available until after the first few days of school are have passed. In a related incident, an electricity flicker that happened Tuesday morning prompted several inquiries by staff and residents as to the cause. According to Barrows, the flicker happened all over town at the same time and it stemmed from a lightning strike at a LCRA power station near Austin. “That was an issue on the supplier side that hit the entire town and all the towns in between the station and Brady, all at the same time.” Citizens are urged to exercise extreme care and caution when encountering utility crews who are positioned on city streets working on trees.

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