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Electrical system upgrade for Fosbee Apartment tenants

Posted: September 5, 2013 - 10:42pm  |  Updated: September 6, 2013 - 12:10am
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Elton Engstrom, left, co-owner of the Fosbee Apartments, shows off the old electrical fuses with electrician Joe Hosey of Juneau Electric on Thursday. The city has asked the owners to upgrade the electrical system in the 1930's era downtown apartment building a block away from the Governor's House.  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Elton Engstrom, left, co-owner of the Fosbee Apartments, shows off the old electrical fuses with electrician Joe Hosey of Juneau Electric on Thursday. The city has asked the owners to upgrade the electrical system in the 1930's era downtown apartment building a block away from the Governor's House.

Situated on a precipice overlooking much of the Willoughby District, the Fosbee Apartment building has the look and feel of a building erected in the 1930’s.

Just outside the aged building is a pile of the old, rusty fuse boxes that until just recently powered the building.

Those boxes are on the way out, and a brand new electrical system is being installed by co-owner Elton Engstrom.

The $60,000 project is nearing its completion after about six weeks of work, and it comes on the heels of the city mandating an update to the building’s power system.

Two December fires attributed to the outdated electric system spurred a mandate from the city for the building to be updated, Fire Marshal Dan Jager said.

“It’s time to do it,” Engstrom said of the electrical work. “The city encouraged it, and we wanted to do it, so the timing was right.”

The update is moving the building from a fuse-based system to a thermal-magnetic breaker system, said Joe Hosey, an electrician for Juneau Electric which is doing the work.

“This is the cutting-edge of electrical technology,” Hosey said of the system. “Downtown a lot of buildings are in poor shape, but it’s uncommon for you to see owners doing all this to fix things.”

The problem with many older Juneau buildings centers on older construction not being able to keep up with modern demand, Jager said, adding that the Fosbee Building’s problems came from the fuse system not having the ability to handle all the appliances being plugged in by tenants daily.

“Most of the time, they’re deficiencies that are easily corrected,” Jager said.

Building owners who fail to keep buildings up to code could face a loss of their business tax credits or a city shut down if the situation becomes a danger to the public, and the pressure from the city is having an effect, Jager said.

“Things have definitely come along in recent years,” he said.

In addition to the new electrical system, the Fosbee Building has had updates to the fire alarms and extinguishers and exit signs in recent months, Jager added.

“This is kind of nice,” Engstrom said as he pointed out the features of the shiny new electrical system. “I’m proud of this.”

• Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at 523-2243 or at matthew.woolbright@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reportermatt.

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