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Editorial: Better power, education can be ours — if we get involved

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Posted: Saturday, March 15, 2014 12:00 am

Lodi’s frustrating power losses will be history after May 2017.

This was suggested in the June 5, 2013, edition of the News-Sentinel, but we missed the significance at the time.

Then it came to us this week — like the bolt of lightning that knocked out the only Lodi connection to the electrical grid a minute before midnight on March 5. It was the fifth time in eight years the entire city lost power.

Out of a sound sleep, we made an eerie drive to the paper. The lights were out all over Lodi. So were our computers, presses and inserting machine. The power came back in 45 minutes — just before we woke up our neighbor and guardian angel, Galt Herald publisher David Herburger.

We didn’t suddenly become an afternoon newspaper that day, but it was scary. Depending on when the power goes out, every Lodi business and resident can suffer similar frustration.

That night, we asked ourselves for the umpteenth time: When is the city of Lodi ever going to a build a second transmission line?

We found the answer when we called Lodi Electric Utility Director Liz Kirkley on Friday. She pointed us to the article nearly a year ago in the Lodi News-Sentinel (a veritable wealth of information, no?).

The article discussed the $100 to $125 million price tag for upgrading the city’s link to the state’s power grid. Like Kirkley the electrical engineer, the article talked about more kilovolts and megawatts.

Halfway through the short article was this sentence: “PG&E will install new 230,000-volt power lines stretching from a substation on Eight Mile Road near Interstate 5 to another south of Lockeford, going through the improved Lodi substation.” That means there will be two connections to the grid, an upgraded one from the Lockeford substation where we’ve received our power for years, and one of equal capacity from North Stockton.

Finally, Kirkley connected the dots. Those frustrating power outages that have us scooting across a darkened city in the middle of the night will be a thing of the past after May 31, 2017, — if all goes according to plan.

And the plan’s not finished yet. For instance, the routes of the new power lines are not set. There will public hearings once the consultants make proposals. Kirkley’s hoping for a good turnout from citizens.

She also said the project is designed so the city can lower its operating costs. The savings will pay the cost of the equipment and our power bills will stay the same. They’ll even go down once the loans are paid off.

Let there be light!

Delta College moving forward on north county campus

San Joaquin Delta Community College is also planning a major improvement in the lives of Lodians — a north county campus.

Not a “Lodi campus,” said Delta’s President Kathy Hart on Friday. “It is a campus for the citizens of the north county/north section of the San Joaquin Delta Community College District.”

The site has not been chosen and only some of the courses fixed.

Delta has to have biology, chemistry, anatomy/physiology, physics and at least one computer lab to qualify for state funding. A pre-nursing curriculum is possible. And Delta officials are “interested” in an agriculture theme for the new campus.

Citizens throughout the district will be consulted before ag classes are included in the plan.

Pinning down a site and planning the course offerings is an involved process.

Over the years, we have seen planning devolve into inaction at Delta and other government institutions, so we asked Hart for a timetable.

There isn’t one yet, she said. That worries us.

We asked who was in charge of this project.

“At this time I will be leading this effort with the assistance of the members of my very able executive leadership team,” she said.

That Delta’s top professional takes personal responsibility for a north county campus is encouraging.

Involvement is key

There was an important lesson about government repeated by both Hart and Kirkley. Citizens who want to influence change must understand the process of change and participate at the right time.

We all have busy lives, but carving out time to read about government and attend public meetings gives government a chance to be responsive.

If we want a Lodi campus or one conveniently close, if we want an agricultural program or something else, if we don’t like the route of the new power lines into Lodi, we have to show up and speak out.

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