By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
A rural Curry County electric transformer shot by an unknown suspect Sunday will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair and has spurred a criminal investigation, according to officials.
The transformer, located at a substation on Curry Road R north of Ranchvale, serves about 1,000 meters for the Farmers’ Electric Cooperative, its director of member services, Thom Moore, said.
There were power outages in the area for about two and a half hours beginning at 3 a.m. Monday, but power was quickly restored, Moore said. The substation has been reconfigured to function without the damaged transformer.
The transformer was shot Sunday afternoon and leaked around 2,000 gallons of non-toxic mineral oil before it blew out early Monday morning, Undersheriff Wesley Waller said.
Deputies were dispatched around 8:30 a.m. Monday when Farmers’ employees discovered the bullet hole in the transformer.
A sign on the fence that surrounds the substation had also been shot, Waller said.
The case is being investigated as felony criminal damage.
“It’s something we’re taking very seriously,” Waller said Tuesday.
Residents reported seeing a silver or gray Jeep Cherokee in the area late Sunday afternoon to early evening, Waller said.
A Crime Stoppers reward of $1,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest, he said.
Moore said the temporary measures taken to stabilize the substation are expected to hold up until repairs are completed in about 28 weeks.
When irrigation systems begin to load the system later in the season, Moore said issues may develop but said engineers have contingency plans.
With repairs valued around $207,000, the 12-foot-tall, 10 foot-wide 1,000-pound transformer will have to be removed by a heavy crane and transported for repairs, Moore said.
Farmers is still gathering bids for repairs, but Moore said if forced to replace the unit, it could cost upwards of $400,000.
Moore said it is not the first time an incident like this has occurred but it has been by far the most devastating because of cost and resources consumed.
“The bottom line is a simple little act of vandalism could cost the cooperative thousands of dollars,” he said. “Because we’re consumer owned, it affects our customers.”
Curry County Crime Stoppers: 763-7000