The Wire

Energy news from Omaha Public Power District


Barn move draws attention, careful planning

July 29, 2019 | Jason Kuiper | commercial and industrial, customers

When Tim Vala, owner of the hugely popular Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Apple Orchard near Gretna, heard of a 120-year-old dairy barn scheduled for demolition, he decided he could put it to use.

Vala heard about the barn from an employee who attends church with the building’s owner.

Not the first

Vala has saved five barns in Sarpy County from a similar fate. The dairy barn, which had been sitting on a farm near 114th Street and Schram Road, may be one of the oldest standing barns in the county.

Sarpy County barn move, OPPD line trucks drive in front of and behind the barn as it slowly rolls down a rural road.
OPPD line trucks drive in front of and behind the barn as it slowly rolls down a rural road. Photo courtesy of Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Apple Orchard.

With the help of OPPD crews, the massive barn began the long, slow trip down Schram Road July 23. It eventually made it to Valas’ farm on 180th Street in the early morning hours of July 24. The barn will be part of the apple orchard operation, one of Vala’s newer attractions.

New home

Now the barn sits near what will be its permanent home, just south of the “jumping pillows” for those familiar with the farm.

Sarpy County barn move The barn rests near its new permanent home at Vala's.. Photo courtesy of Tim Vala
The barn rests near its new permanent home at Vala’s.. Photo courtesy of Tim Vala

“We have to get it on the foundation,” Vala said. “We might be able to use it next year, for sure the year after. We have some renovations to do. But we want to make sure we do it right.”

Vala said recent growth in Sarpy County has meant old barns and buildings like the one moved last week face the end of their lifespan. He likes preserving the local history and giving the barns new life.

OPPD’s role

For OPPD, a lot of coordination goes into moving a building like the barn.

Sarpy County barn move
The barn slowly moves out onto a road in rural Sarpy County.

Bill Wunderlich, field supervisor Transmission & Distribution, said once he gets the route from the electrical service designer, he starts to run the route out to determine what needs to be done in terms of crew staffing. He also identifies taps and wires that need to be dropped for the building to pass, the budget for the crews and other logistics.

Then he gets together with OPPD dispatchers. They discuss switching power along the route and letting customers know about the outage times during the move. Wunderlich said they do, on average, about three of four such moves a year.

But while preparing for the barn move this week, he has also been preparing for an even bigger move – a substation transformer.

Wunderlich said moves like the barn usually entail two crews. One works in front of the movers and one behind them.

“This one went well,” he said. “It’s not every day you see a something like that going down the road.”

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

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