FARMINGTON — The Farmington Electric Utility System will begin a project to reduce outages and improve system reliability.

A utility contractor on July 8 will begin replacing transformers and bare copper secondary lines with insulated aluminum lines in five Farmington neighborhoods that officials say are prone to small outages because of aging electrical infrastructure.

"We expect there to be three to four weeks of improvements," said John Armenta, the utility's electrical engineering manager.

The $900,000 project is being funded out of the utility's capital improvements fund, he said.

The project will cause some short, isolated outages, but contractor employees will work to reduce any inconvenience for residents and businesses in the areas affected, Armenta said.

"Workers will attempt to contact homeowners on the day of (work)," he said. "Outages should be no more than 30 minutes."

The project is expected to begin in the Highland View subdivision located behind the Animas Valley Mall. Work will continue in the Totah View subdivision, near the intersection of South Miller and Ouray avenues; the Sunset Heights, Wildwood Glenn and Puesto del Sol subdivisions near the intersection of West 20th Street and Western Avenue; the Cherry Hills subdivision near the intersection of 30th Street and College Boulevard and in the Beckland Hills subdivision near the intersection of Kingsway and Country Club drives.

The reliability improvements will be conducted in tandem with a tree trimming project that aims to reduce outages caused by tree limbs stuck in power lines, Armenta said.

Although the secondary lines are a small component of the utility's overall system, outages in these lines can reduce the utility's reliability rating, he said.

"If you have a transmission outage it can take out a section of town," he said. "Secondary (line) outages affect one house or a few blocks."

Mayor Tommy Roberts said the project is part of an overall utility initiative to improve system reliability.

"The utility has budgeted several million dollars in fiscal year 2014 for system improvements and upgrades," Roberts said.

System reliability is a key component in future economic development, he said.

"I look at our utility as one of the major assets we have," Roberts said. "(Businesses) are looking for inexpensive electricity and reliable services. The Farmington Electric Utility System has a history of reliable service and affordable rates. We want to continue to improve on that record."

Greg Yee covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and gyee@daily-times.com. Follow him @GYeeDT on Twitter.