The Traverse City Commission did the right thing by leaving a decision about whether to reroute an aging electric transmission line to the board of Traverse City Light & Power, the city-owned electric utility.
It was, after all, a basically technical question about the best and most affordable way for the utility to provide reliable power to ratepayers for many years to come.
Now it will be up to the utility to reach out to various constituencies that have expressed concerns about the utility’s plans and look at costs and options.
For years, the relationship between Light & Power and the city commission was strained because the commission continually inserted itself into what should have been Light & Power business. Commissioners justified their actions because, in their minds anyway, Light & Power failed to listen to constituents.
The city eventually hired an outside firm to analyze the relationship. The commission was cautioned to stop stepping over limits imposed by the city charter; Light & Power was urged to better listen and respond to ratepayers.
Tim Arends, the utility’s executive director, appears to have gotten the message. He has said he will contract for preliminary design work this summer to replace the line in its current location as a “baseline” option.
He’ll then meet with the Slabtown neighborhood group, Hickory Hills officials, and the Traverse City and Garfield Township recreation authority that owns Hickory Meadows. Arends said he’ll ask them to identify their preferred alternatives.
Light & Power’s consulting engineers will research the feasibility and costs of those options and present the entire package to his board in the fall.
And there are options.
For instance, Light & Power has said it would cost an additional $1.2 million to bury a new line between Wayne Hill and Division Street, a move opponents would likely prefer over simply putting up new and bigger poles and stringing new lines.