REMC upgrades capacity but angers some residents

Published 5:05 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Coming from the substation are wires placed at several heights on multiple wood poles. Power comes to the substation on 75-110&squo; high metal poles. The accompanying poles and new lines can be seen on many roads in eastern Polk County.

Over a fresh peach milkshake at his restaurant, Granny Boop & Pop Pop&squo;s Cafe, Gary Traver of Sylvan Lane shared his anger over the difference between what he was told about the project and what actually happened.

Traver is trying to sell his home, his &dquo;retirement&dquo; as he calls it, which is located near the new substation. He says potential buyers have been turned off by what Traver describes as &dquo;an eyesore.&dquo;

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&bsp;&dquo;As a self-employed businessman, I cannot afford to have such a problem,&dquo; he says.

Traver says he was originally promised by the REMC representative that the substation would be &dquo;low profile,&dquo; that poles would be no more visible than the current ones and that he &dquo;would not even know they (REMC) were there.&dquo;

What he sees right now is far from that, he says.

REMC responded to the concerns expressed by residents of Sylvan Lane over the condition of the construction site. Colon Saunders, project manager at REMC said, &dquo;We are not finished and will be cleaning up the area and doing normal restoration of the disturbed land.&dquo;

Also, concern has been expressed regarding soil erosion during construction and after, the use of herbicides to control vegetation and why such a large area had to be cleared.

One resident emphasized that it is important to be assertive and proactive when dealing with the utility. They have not hesitated to bring their concerns to the REMC&squo;s attention. From the REMC perspective, delivering electrical power reliably is their highest priority.

All this is part of the REMC&squo;s 20 Year Plan. REMC provides power to 68,000 customer members in 10 rural counties, including Polk County. The 20 Year Plan was developed in 2002 to deal with anticipated growth. The addition of many major subdivisions in the area is substantiating the growth projections. As Colon Saunders explains, &dquo;We cannot ‐ not meet the demand.&dquo;

Another substation in Coopers Gap is expected in the next few years.

The new substation will move the residents served by it 18 miles closer to their source of supply. This and the wide rights of way that REMC will be keeping clear, will greatly improve reliability.

It costs REMC approximately $60,000 per mile to build the transmission lines. The poles are expected to last 50 years and the substation 100 years.

Saunders noted that in this terrain, they sometimes have to run a circuit down a street and back again instead of making a loop around an area.

Area residents said they understand having the utility in their backyard is inevitable, but they want utilities to be cooperative and respectful of the natural surroundings.