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Transmission lines up for discussion

By Staff | Oct 17, 2009

The focus of new transmission lines through the CRA will likely shift toward the city protecting itself from litigation, and away from the decade-long argument of whether the lines will be installed overhead or underground.
City council is set to discuss the situation again at its meeting Monday, but it’s unclear what type of decision, if any, will be made.
“We’re going to discuss it,” said Councilmember Pete Brandt. “But I don’t know where we stand, to tell the truth.”
City staff has been working on an indemnity agreement along with LCEC over the past few weeks.
The agreement would absolve the city from any potential litigation resulting from installing overhead lines in the downtown corridor.
CRA board members have long feared that overhead lines would ultimately hinder development within the district, and mire the city in long-term litigation from property owners along the new line’s route.
CRA Executive Director John Jacobsen said he hopes the council will take their time making the decision.
While it’s not clear if Monday’s discussion will focus on choosing a route for the lines, or hashing out the details of the indemnity agreement, it is clear council is facing litigation from LCEC if something doesn’t happen.
Jacobsen added that the council should stick to a previous agreement between the city and LCEC to hold off on any action, from both sides, for 18 months, while further studies are conducted.
“I would like council to once again to go back to exactly what the mayor and Denny Hamilton (LCEC’s chief executive officer) worked out and proceed down that path,” Jacobsen said. “When those choices are on a piece of paper they can make an educated decision.”
According to LCEC spokeswoman Karen Ryan, the 18-month agreement hinged entirely on finding a way to fund undergrounding the lines, and coming up with a timeline to work toward that goal.
“When that agreement was discussed, the plan entailed coming up with a timeline as quickly as possible,” Ryan said. “But they never set a timeline to discuss when they would select a route. We didn’t want to wait the 18 months and end up right back where we are now.”
Ryan added that LCEC was prepared to move forward with litigation if city council did not make a decision, but if the indemnity agreement is struck, then LCEC would begin the permitting process to start construction on overhead lines.
Brandt said the council will likely move away from choosing a route, focusing instead on finalizing the indemnity agreement.
“I think it’s a mistake, but that’s the way it looks,” he said.