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Emergency power keeps Pa. center going

November 08, 1998|By DON AINES

SOUTH MOUNTAIN, Pa. - The main building at South Mountain Restoration Center remained on emergency power Sunday afternoon, more than a day after a manhole fire caused power lines at the facility to fail.

Administrator Tom Buckus said the problem began at about noon Saturday with a power failure. When an attempt was made to restore service, he said a power surge caused the main feeder lines to fail.

"We've had a major breakdown of our underground cabling," Buckus said Sunday afternoon.

"We're having some difficulty in pulling the old cable" and replacing it with new electrical lines, Buckus said. He said the center was prepared to remain on emergency power for a few days.

Built around 1910 as a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients, the center now provides long-term nursing care, mostly to people referred from state mental hospitals, Buckus said.

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Director of Personnel Bill Ponton, the acting administrator on call Sunday evening, said workers were still trying to pull the old lines from underground conduits and hoped to replace them today.

The outage first knocked out power to Unit 1, the main building where the 264 residents live, along with the food preparation building and garage. Ponton said the power plant at the 365-acre complex in Quincy Township, Pa., remained in service and was able to provide heat to the center.

Regular power was restored Sunday to all the buildings except Unit 1. Ponton said that structure was still operating off a large emergency generator brought in late Saturday from York, Pa.

Buckus said the center had to initially rely on a number of small generators supplied by fire companies and the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency for power.

No residents were evacuated, but they had to eat cold meals Saturday. Buckus said the center has an emergency meal plan for such situations..

For a time Saturday, telephone service at the center was interrupted. Buckus said the switchboard runs off an emergency power system of batteries, but they ran down.

Buckus said the center is an Allegheny Power Co. customer, but the failure occurred in lines on the center's property. Ponton said the explosion from the power surge knocked the manhole cover about 3 feet into the air.

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