St. Charles Mercy Hospital plans to upgrade its substation and run a new set of power lines to increase its supply of electricity.
But the city requires new electric lines in residential subdivisions be underground.
FirstEnergy, which owns Toledo Edison, has insisted that the lines have to be above ground because they are high voltage, Mayor Marge Brown told city council last week.
Brown, public service director Paul Roman, Administrator Ken Filipiak, and Law Director Paul Goldberg met with Edison officials last week “to show our side of the equation,” said Brown.
“They are telling us they cannot bury the wires, they have to be above ground. These are 90 foot wires you will see when you come off I-280 to Navarre,” said Brown.
Brown said Edison has not demonstrated that the wires cannot be installed underground.
“It’s not that they can’t bury the wires. It’s that they don’t want to,” said Brown.
“They want to go from the railroad overpass on Navarre going east, cutting across the road, and going down Munding Drive so that there will be three poles at the corner of Wheeling Street in order to get the electricity over to St. Charles,” said Brown. “We were under the impression that this is something St. Charles needed. And in fact, it is not. It is what the Edison wants St. Charles to do.”
“They are indicating to us,” said Filipiak, “that it is a part of the tariff agreement currently in place that would require certain users above a certain kilowatt usage to upgrade to a transmission sized line.”
“We’ve asked for the total cost of the project, and we’ve never gotten it yet. We don’t want to be called pole city. The administration would like your input,” Brown said to council. “Right now, the mayor is saying no. If you want electricity to St. Charles, bury it. That’s going to be my stand because it’s going to tear up our city. I’m open for discussion, I’m open for you to tell me to back off and let the Edison have their way and run rampant with our city. It’s your call.”
Councilman Mike Seferian said it is always advantageous to have underground wires.
“However, I have some knowledge in electrical lines and electricity in general, and I do understand some of the problems with underground transmission wires. If this is indeed what’s required as an upgrade, I think we may have no choice, that we may just have to have this,” said Seferian.
It would be more practical, he said, to work with FirstEnergy to determine pole alignments “than trying to seek a demand that’s just impossible to achieve.
“If there’s anything that could be done with the poles to make as little impact as possible, it is probably the only alternative,” he said.
“I don’t think we’ve really departed from that position,” said Filipiak. “It’s just that from our standpoint, it really ought to be easy for Toledo Edison to demonstrate it’s not feasible rather than simply say, “Well, it just can’t be done and we’re not even going to talk about it any further.’ It may be exactly that. It’s just that we know it’s happening in other communities, and there may be some practical reason because of the reliability issue as it relates to the hospital. But you would think that somewhere along the line, an electrical engineer or an engineering report exists that would be able to demonstrate that it’s not feasible. And we haven’t really gotten much cooperation from them on that. And you’re right, beyond that, we’ve tried to work with them on finding the most preferred alignment in the event it isn’t practical to get it under ground. I know Mr. Roman is working hard on that and has met some resistance, but he’s making some progress.”
Seferian said Roman has some experience in the electrical field that “helps to understand the magnitude of the problem here.”
“I don’t need much of an explanation to understand that it is impractical. My guess is that Mr. Roman doesn’t need that much of an explanation to see that it’s impractical,” said Seferian. “I think it’s the practical thing to do to work to have the best alignment, the best style of pole, whatever, to get the transmission lines there because, in reality, I think that’s the only option you’re going to have. I am convinced of that.”
“In reviewing what Edison has proposed, I am very realistic in terms of what’s feasible and what’s not,” said Roman. “I completely understand their concerns. And it is one of which, if they had to repair it, an underground installation is more difficult than an aerial. And they’re saying with a hospital, you can’t afford too much time that that line is down.”
He also said Edison has failed to provide the difference in cost.
“Because they say it simply isn’t feasible, so therefore you don’t need it. Not the best answer,” said Roman.
He also said Edison told him that the poles would have a five foot diameter concrete foundation that’s 35 feet deep.
“They first started complaining that I was asking for all this additional information. And once they told me it was 35 feet deep, I thought maybe I should ask for more because that’s a problem. Once these poles are here, they’re staying. And I need to know for sure there’s not a conflict with existing utilities as well as any future improvements,” said Roman.