Town's police generator causes controversy

Officials from Kelly Generator and Equipment Inc. (KGE) who recently inspected the installation of the 130-kilowatt generator at the temporary Ocean View Police Station reported that the generator is not mean for temporary use and should be installed on a concrete slab or another “suitable surface.”
Coastal Point • JONATHAN STARKEY: There has been plenty of debate over this generator in Ocean View.Coastal Point • JONATHAN STARKEY:
There has been plenty of debate over this generator in Ocean View.

The generator is currently bolted to its shipping crate, which is sitting on pieces of lumber outside the temporary police station off of Central Avenue in Ocean View.

Conversation at Monday’s special town council meeting centered on possible safety issues stemming from the generator’s temporary installation. Town council ultimately voted to hire an engineering company to evaluate the situation or rent a smaller generator for the remainder of the time that Ocean View’s police department will be housed in the temporary facility.

“The generator is not suitable for a temporary situation,” Magill said, echoing KGE inspection findings “We have no idea what damage could be done. If it blew up, we’d be liable.”

Nik Dubish, a service consultant at KGE, confirmed that the Ford 6.8 liter V10-powered generator could explode if a fall impacted its fuel lines. Such a fall could be caused by engine vibrations and could also only minimally damage the generator or not damage it at all. Ocean View Councilman Roy Thomas said, however, that risks shouldn’t be taken on safety issues.

“I believe we should put it on a concrete pad,” Thomas said, motioning that the council spend up to $20,000 to hire an engineer to evaluate the situation. “That’s the cost of doing business.”

“If life was full of guarantees, we wouldn’t need things like insurance companies,” Councilman Bill Wichmann said at Monday’s meeting.

Wichmann violated town code earlier this year by personally authorizing the generator’s $16,000 installation without receiving other estimates or consulting the town. Thomas brought the issue to the attention of council in May but no action was ever taken against Wichmann.

“We should never have installed that thing in the first place,” Councilman Eric Magill said of the generator, which was purchased with a grant for $22,000 to be used as a backup power source in the new police station. “It’s not a proper installation. It’s not a safe installation.”

“That’s Eric’s opinion,” Wichmann replied. “My opinion is it‘s working fine. It’s a temporary installation that I believe is very secure.” Norman Amendt, another councilman, agreed.

“It just doesn’t make good sense. I don’t see how anyone could prove this is unsafe,” he said. Dubish, who didn’t inspect the installation himself but read from one of his employees’ reports, said that the safety issues could arise — especially if Ocean View experienced flooding similar to that produced by torrential rain in Western Sussex County last weekend.

“With the flooding, who knows” what could happen, he said, adding that the generator could be picked up by floodwaters. “Best-case, it doesn’t do anything. Worst-case, scenario, the fuel line could rip off (possibly causing an explosion) … being that it’s not secured. “If that is not set up right, it could possibly do some damage,” Dubish added.

The inspector also found that the three-phase generator does not match the single-phase triple-wide temporary station and that a low coolant level could possibly prevent the generator from working.