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Great Lakes Article:

City acts to reduce energy consumption
Mayor urges Sault residents to do their part to save power
By Elaine Della-Mattia
08/20/03


The lights might be off in some city buildings, but it’s business as usual for city staff.

All city services and buildings will remain open but with a plan to concentrate on conservation efforts.

CAO Joe Fratesi said that the city has chosen not to close its doors, "but is taking reasonable steps to curb the use of electricity and conserve energy," while Ontario’s energy system is being restored to normal capacity.

Rolling blackouts are still a possibility in the wake of the biggest blackout in North American history that left 50 million people in the dark.

Mayor John Rowswell said in a telephone interview from Toronto Monday that Sault Ste. Marie is fortunate to be in a fully powered city but still needs to do its part to help the province. "We are participating to the extent we can participate," he said during a break in the Association of Ontario Municipalities conference.

"We can service ourselves with Great Lakes Power but we are sharing our extra resources with others," he said.

"I’m pleased with the plan our Emergency Planning Committee has come up with with the PUC and Great Lakes Power," Rowswell said.

The city’s energy conservation schedule will include using as much natural lighting as possible, setting air conditioning in all municipal facilities at 78 Fahrenheit (25 C), turning off non-essential equipment including printers, photocopies and limiting computer use and adjusting hot water tanks from "hot" to "warm".

Fratesi said that about 50 per cent of the city’s staff is not working because of scheduled vacation time and that in itself helps conserve.

All large copying or print jobs will be put on hold, and all unnecessary appliances will be turned off.

The city, which was to begin its ice-making operations at the Memorial Gardens Monday, will hold off and review the situation daily.

Ice surfaces remain intact at the John Rhodes Community Centre but temperatures to preserve the ice will be reduced to a minimum level, close to 21 C, preserving about 50 per cent of the power, Fratesi said.

"That means there’ll be ice, but somewhat softer ice," he said.

Meanwhile, the Pee Wee Arena is operational with minimal power being used to maintain the ice service. Other services, such as the canteen, are not operational.

The city’s Rhodes pool facilities also remain open with various air conditioning units cranked to higher temperatures.

The Sault Ste. Marie Public Library will also remain open with reduced lighting and air conditioning.

City transit will maintain its regular schedule for area residents and city staff will not make any unnecessary vehicular travel.

"If you come to city hall, it may take a few minutes to get a computer warmed up but you will be served," Fratesi said. He said that the city’s measures are similar to those in other Northern Ontario municipalities such as North Bay and Timmins.

PUC president and CEO Brian Curran said that there will not be a reduction in street lights throughout the city at night, largely because it is a public safety issue and because the lights are programmed to come on at dusk, after the critical period of energy consumption is over.

The city’s water system has been up and running throughout the weekend and reservoirs are at or near capacity with working back-up systems, he said.

Rowswell said he believes larger cities will have some lasting long-term effects from the blackout which affected most of Ontario and parts of neighbouring states.

He said that some cities may adopt ongoing conservation measures while others will be affected through a segmentation of grids so that there is no chance of a cascading collapse of power in the system as there was on Thursday.

Fratesi said that the management team will meet daily to review its conservation plan and determine if further action is needed.

"If we close some of our offices we’ll be the subject of criticism or if we remain open, we still may be the subject of some criticism but we have put energy conservation measures into effect in all of our operations," he said.

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