Summer construction work will connect three buildings to a new power system

Jackson French

Over the summer, Planning, Design and Construction will be working to connect three buildings at the top of the Hill to a new electrical system.

The project, scheduled to begin on May 16, will connect Cherry Hall, the Garrett Conference Center and Potter Hall to the new system.

Bryan Russell, PDC’s director, said the new power system will be more efficient and dependable than the current system.

“The risk of us losing power to three critical buildings on the top of the Hill will be minimized when we change it over to the new high-voltage system,” he said.

Russell said much of WKU is powered by an outdated electrical system.

Ben Johnson, director of the project and assistant director of PDC, said WKU has been working on switching since 1997.

Johnson said most of the north half of campus has already been converted to the 12,470 volt system.

These buildings, he said, have suffered fewer outages than other buildings that are still connected to the old system.

This project is the latest stage in a larger project to revamp the school’s electrical system.

The project is scheduled to be completed before the fall 2013 semester, Russell said.

For the project, Russell said PDC will have to dig in order to access the underground electrical systems.

“We’ll be utilizing excavation equipment as necessary to dig these new trenches,” he said.

Despite the use of excavation equipment, Russell said disruptions to the university will be minimal. The renovations will be done during the summer term.

He described the project as a collaborative effort and said PDC is working with the Academic Council to coordinate schedules and minimize disruptions.

Russell also said his department has a distribution list to inform the police and the fire department of any road closings that may be implemented.

John Osborne, vice president for Campus Services and Facilities, said this summer’s project is stage six of a task that will require at least eight more phases to complete.

“We have been trying to do this in pieces and parts over the last several years,” Osborne said. “It is a monumental expense and undertaking.”

Johnson said the main reason it has taken so long for the school to update its electrical system is the state’s refusal to fund the renovations.

“The economy has, unfortunately, impacted state government to the point where we’re just having to take care of these matters ourselves to the extent that we can,” Osborne said.

Efforts to switch the school over to the newer 12,470 volt system have been made for 16 years, but there are still more than 20 buildings on campus that are connected to the old system.

“It’s going to take years to be able to complete the project,” Johnson said. “I would speculate we’ve probably got another eight phases to do if we do it in these kind of increments.”