American Electric Power’s $25 million upgrade of transmission lines to meet the growing electric needs of Delaware County has some residents questioning their right-of-way contracts.
Residents were first informed of the change from wood power poles to steel at an AEP open house Jan. 17.
“We specifically asked in our negotiations will it be wood poles?” said Jim Siler, Troy Township resident. Siler said he was told by Scott Reed, AEP contract right-of-way agent, “‘Yes, we’re not going to use metal poles,’” Siler said. “It’s wood poles, come on folks.”
Vikki Michalski, AEP representative, told The Gazette during a recent open house at the YMCA that the power company will install 85-foot steel poles that are smaller than the large towers normally seen in rural areas.
The company will construct a 17-mile route of new 69-kilovolt transmission lines to modernize the transmission and distribution electric grid in Delaware County. The $25 million project will include work in Berlin, Brown, Delaware, and Troy townships over the next year.
Siler held an open house for his Troy Township neighbors who said they had signed the contracts for right-of-way in 2008. Agreeing with Siler, other residents in a similar discussion with Reed said they were told the poles would be wood.
“Now they’re increasing the diameter of the pole and they’re increasing the height of it by 20 feet,” Siler said. “We’re opposed to that because we don’t have any steel poles running through here. On the drawing it’s obvious, at the top it says wood pole.”
The diagram was given to Siler by Reed as part of the contract package.
In an email from AEP Ohio media relations, The Gazette was told planning for the lines started 10 years ago.
“Preliminary engineering at that time suggested using wood poles,” AEP wrote. “Since then, the community’s growth and demand for more power require the line be designed to meet current and future needs. Steel poles allow us to build a system that supports present power demand and future growth in the area. Steel poles also are stronger and have a longer life span than wood. They can hold the equipment and lines needed to meet the community’s growing demand for electricity. Steel pole structures make the lines stronger, strengthen our transmission system and increase reliability for our customers.”
Ouida Siler, Jim Siler’s wife, said when meeting with Reed, he gave them a diagram of the wood pole.
“We toyed around with it for quite a while,” she said. “We were thinking not to sign. What they told us, to scare you a little bit, is if you don’t do it now when we come back, we’re going to give you a set amount.”
Siler thinks the wooden poles blend in with the scenery of the property whereas the metal poles will stick out.
Roni Saxby said she went online and pulled up the original easement from 2008. “It didn’t specify anything about height or size of the poles,” she said. “It just gave you the longitude and latitude of where they’re supposed to be.”
Saxby said she asked AEP representatives for examples of where the steel poles were used in a residential area. She was directed to the Lincoln substation behind Delaware Hayes High School.
“When I went to look at them, they are wood poles, 60 feet and they go from the substation down the tracks to an industrial area,” she said. “So it’s not the same.”
Saxby said she sent an email to AEP telling them they were wood poles. The reply she received was, “they would send it to their right-of-way people and they would get back to me,” Saxby said. “That was about two weeks ago.”
Saxby added, “My biggest concern is this a residential area, we’re clearly losing our (property) values.”
Resident Joel Provence said he wasn’t aware of AEP’s right-of-way until the day he and his wife closed on their home a year-and-a-half ago.
“When we signed, that was our deal,” he said. “The only thing positive I would say is at least they were courteous enough to move them to the corners of the property line.”
The Gazette contacted Reed, who said he is retired. “The only thing I can tell you is it’s all public record,” Reed said.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.