WKU’s aging electrical grid continues history of problems

Jessica Voorhees

The power outage in Pearce-Ford Tower last week was not an isolated incident. WKU has a history of problems with its electrical grid. 

Last year, the power went out in Bates-Runner, Northeast and Southwest halls and the Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center before the semester started. 

Bryan Russell, chief facilities officer, said he believes the PFT outage occurred during the snow storm coincidentally.

Rather, he said, the university’s aging infrastructure may be the cause of the power outages on campus.

“The campus is very old, and there’s a lot of infrastructure you don’t see,” he said.

Russell said WKU installed the electrical cables in PFT in 1968, but the university has not replaced cables in other buildings in 75 years. 

He said the replacement cables for PFT were sent in overnight from Chicago.

President Gary Ransdell said the facilities staff installed the cables and reopened the building in 36 hours. 

“I’m really proud of the facilities staff for working in extreme conditions,” he said.

Russell said facilities is installing a new system where every building will be on its own electrical switch, which will allow for more “flexibility.”

He said last summer the university spent $1 million to $2 million dollars on maintenance for Cravens Graduate Center and Library and Potter Hall.

He said the university is $6 million away from being able to finish the project, which is one on a “huge list” of projects that will cost “hundreds of millions of dollars.” 

“It’s one of our top three priority projects,” Russell said.

Russell said the university is the primary source for funding these projects. 

He said he’s been asking for the project to become a state capital project for 10 years. 

Russell said the PFT incident displayed why the project deserves funding and recognition. 

“This is a great example of why we need to get this work completed, so students don’t have to relocate,” he said.