De Pere council votes to bury power lines
By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – On Tuesday, April 16, the De Pere Common Council voted to cost-share with Wisconsin Public Service to bury power lines on Ryan Road instead of relocating the power poles, despite the city’s share of the tab turning out to be larger than previously indicated.
Relocation of the lines above ground would be a WPS cost, but WPS proposed a cost share if the line was buried because the lines needed to be relocated.
The initial cost estimate to bury the lines was estimated to be $80,000, with the city paying $40,000 and WPS paying $40,000. Later, the city’s amount was amended to $49,327.
Power lines in the subdivision north of the Ryan Road reconstruction project have been buried.
Buried power lines have been a trend with newer subdivisions and roads, said De Pere Director of Public Works Scott Thoresen.
“One benefit (of below ground power lines) is in maintenance,” he said.
One example he gave was trees: When they grow up into above ground power lines, their branches end up needing to be hatched-out on the middle.
Alderman Dan Carpenter said the area for the relocated lines, totaling about 11 poles, is on the east side of the road along school property and retention ponds, not in the residential area.
“I don’t know why we want to be doing this; it’s foolishness,” Carpenter said.
He said even if power lines are buried, poles still need to be put up for street lights.
“If you have power poles, the streetlights can go on the power poles,” he said, adding he couldn’t support the expenditure. “There are projects on each side of the river that we may not have enough money for.”
City Administrator Larry Delo said burying lines makes power more secure during windstorms.
“When we do reconstructions, we try to get them buried,” he said. “It makes the community more secure when it comes to power.”
Downed power lines can affect many things, from officers needed to barricade roads to deter traffic from running into downed lines, to home medical equipment losing power, to ambulances dispatched to homes of those whose medical equipment has lost power.
Delo said the council voted not to bury power lines when George Street was reconstructed.
“We’ve been criticized to no end ever since,” he said.
Alderman Casey Nelson asked if the city could negotiate a better cost-share ratio.
“Would they do 60-40? They (WPS) have an incentive because they want to get these lines buried because it cuts down on their maintenance,” Nelson said. “WPS seems to reap the benefits, though.”
Thoresen said he didn’t know if costs could be negotiated, but if the city were to have been the one requesting that the lines be buried, then 100 percent of the costs would be on the city.
A motion to negotiate with WPS died, and the board passed the original motion to share the costs with WPS.
Nelson and Carpenter voted against the measure.
Funding for the project will be from capital funds not used in 2018 or included in the bonding for capital projects in 2019.