Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Tuesday

May 13, 2014

No decision on Slabtown power line

TRAVERSE CITY — Commissioners gave no clear direction on the fate of a proposed upgrade to an electrical transmission line running through the Slabtown Neighborhood and two area parks.

Commissioners did not instruct city staff to pull the project from the Traverse City Light & Power capital improvement plan on Monday night but didn’t endorse it either. Commissioners peppered Tim Arends, TCL&P executive director, for about 50 minutes with critical questions about the need for the project but left no clear picture heading to their final budget meeting May 19.

“I don’t know what will happen with it really, not enough people said anything so I think it will be decided on May 19th,” Commissioner Barbara Budros, who also sits on the TCL&P board, said after the meeting.

Light & Power officials want to replace the 55-year-old transmission line that connects substations on Gray Road and Hall Street along with five other lines that run through the city. Residents want it either buried or moved to run along M-72 and Grandview Parkway, more expensive options.

The TCL&P board hasn’t even discussed the options and can’t until some preliminary design work gets done, Budros said.

Arends assured commissioners he will meet with all groups and present all options to his board. But if the city commission strips the project from the budget, he can’t spend money on design work. Since not doing anything with the aging line is unacceptable, he told commissioners he would be back year after year until a decision to do something gets made.

“These are difficult decisions that have to be made and you can’t keep kicking the can down the road about it,” Arends said after the meeting. “You have to make a decision.”

Mayor Michael Estes joined Budros in urging their fellow commissioners to leave the technical decision to the Light & Power board members. Budros said it takes a “ton of information” to understand the issues involved in electrical transmission and it was clear from their questions her fellow city commissioners didn’t have the education to make an informed decision.

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