Generator may not be feasible, reasonable, Langley leaders say

Jerry Beck

Questions arose about justifying the cost and true need of installing a large generator in town during the Langley City Council meeting Monday night.

Jerry Beck, an electrician, reported to the council that a generator may cost tens of thousands of dollars. A generator powerful enough to energize the basement heat, lights and kitchen at Island Church of Whidbey, the church being discussed by city leaders, would cost between $20,000 and $40,000, Beck said. That did not include the cost of installing an electrical system to wire the building properly.

Getting an approximate price tag helped clarify the burden of such an endeavor for Councilwoman Rene Neff, and seemed to move Councilman Bruce Allen out of favor for the project.

“It would be nice to have one if we need it, but we don’t need to wire it in,” he said.

Prompted by the Nov. 17 windstorm that killed power in Langley for more than 24 hours, city leaders were challenged by residents to look into a generator to set up an emergency warming center. Currently the city has an emergency response plan that includes emergency shelters. But the city’s existing emergency facility, the Langley United Methodist Church, does not have a generator, so when normal power sources are eliminated the shelter only gets people out of the elements.

Langley was considering setting up a generator at the Island Church of Whidbey, but was uncertain if one could be installed there. Beck said it was possible, but there were limitations such as a propane tank’s size and city noise ordinances. Even small generators, essentially engines, are loud.

“The facility is capable of having a generator put in it … if there’s a big enough plan,” Beck said.

Beck also praised the city’s existing trailered generator. Even that would require a proper electrical system to be installed.

With the cost an immediate obstacle, the council discussed several existing locations that do or are willing to serve as official warming shelters. St. Hubert Catholic Church, Neff said, was an option and already had a generator, but a question remained about the possible requirement of a shower. Brookhaven was also available and had a generator. The Holmes Harbor Rod & Gun Club, outside city limits up Third Street/Brooks Hill Road/Bayview Road, recently purchased another large generator and its board was discussing the process of becoming an emergency shelter.

“It sounds like we have a lot of facilities that need to be better stitched together,” Callison said.