AURORA — More than 500 Aurorans crowded into the Christ Community Chapel to learn more about FirstEnergy’s plans to run a 69 kilovolt transmission line through the community Monday night.
According to Mark Durbin, FirstEnergy’s manager of external communications, the transmission line is necessary to help provide redundancy in the case of a power outage.
“There’s a single feed of power that runs through the Geauga and Treat services stations,” he explained, adding that an interruption in power to that line can affect 9,440 people in the Aurora area.
The route preferred by FirstEnergy runs along the Norfolk and Southern Railroad easement from Chamberlain Road to Treat Road, a route Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said is not a good option for the city.
Womer Benjamin said the power company has failed to convince her of the need for the line anywhere in town, but said if it must pass through Aurora it ought to be buried.
"The problem with the poles is they would absolutely destroy the community’s lovely, historic character forever,” she explained. “We told them to bury the lines, and they told us they would if the city would pay for it.”
Bill Beach of FirstEnergy’s transmission engineering department said the cost to bury transmission lines underground would be between three and seven times more expensive than using the 60-foot utility poles.
“These are not giant lattice towers; they are single-circuit wood poles,” he said.
Auroran Dale Moravec said he's not a fan of more utility poles.
“Visual pollution is my biggest reason,” he said of his rationale for opposing the project.
He and Womer Benjamin also said they don’t buy FirstEnergy’s explanation that the circuit is needed to help provide redundancy in the case of an outage.
“In 26 years, I think I’ve only lost power six or seven times, and for less than an hour each time,” said Moravec.
According to coverage maps on hand at the event, a minimum of 2,116 Aurora residents would benefit from the project, in addition to others in Reminderville, Twinsburg and areas to the northwest of the city.
Another resident, Kathy Presti of Barrington, said she’s concerned about the possible reduction in property value for homes near the power line.
“In Portage County, we pay for the mental health board and health department,” she said, adding she and other homeowners could end up paying less in taxes as a result of the power line. She also said she’s worried about the potential impact on schools.