Midway City Holding Open Houses Thursday And Saturday Regarding Options For Transmission Lines

Nov 13, 2019

Current and possible view in Midway as a result of the proposed power poles
Credit Heber Light & Power

Midway residents will have two opportunities this week to learn more about and express their opinions on the Rocky Mountain Power and Heber Light & Power Transmission line which will run through the city.

The proposed transmission line will connect the Midway Substation to the Jordanelle Dam substation and go through Midway city limits for about a mile. The route follows existing transmission lines along Wards lane, Stringtown road and 970 South. The proposed poles range in height from 70-85 feet with dead end and crossing poles reaching from 80-110 feet above ground.

After weighing options and opportunities the city is now likely to follow one of two paths. Either allow the lines to go up overhead which the power companies would pay for or to bury the portions of the line that go through Midway City at a cost to Midways’ citizens.

The city is holding an open house on Thursday and Saturday to provide information and answer questions regarding the transmission lines.

Both open house meetings take place at Old Town Hall located at 120 West Main Street. The Thursday meeting taking place at 7:00 in the evening, and the Saturday meeting at 9:00 am.

The idea to bury the lines has been popular with citizens opposed to the aesthetic and potential health impacts of the new lines.

A professional estimate obtained by the city and power companies say that burying the lines will cost somewhere between four and six million dollars. Rocky Mountain Power has never, and stated they will never, pay to bury power lines. Rocky Mountain Power will contribute the money they would have spent placing the lines overhead, about one million dollars, to bury the lines if the city opts to pay the rest.

This leaves the city with three options to fund burying the lines. One option would be to bond for the cost of burying the lines. Another option would be to receive private funding, one final option would be to issue a special assessment, charging those in an area impacted by the line for the cost of burying the lines.

In a previous work meeting Midway City Attorney Craig Gordon laid out potential issues with charging a special assessment.

“There has to be an application made and you have to define specifically where you're going to do it,” Gordon said. “Then there are opportunities to appeal that. If 40% of the people right out of the gate say we don't want it, you cannot pass the special assessment. If less than that, then you can proceed forward but they get really really ugly because a special assessment is an encumbrance on your title. So, unlike a general obligation bond that’s just part of your taxes, and if you don't pay taxes on your house you get five years of run before somebody comes in and takes your home. On a special assessment if you miss payments for a couple of months they can come in and foreclose on your home. So, they're very dangerous as far as that goes.”

Gordon said in addition to the technical challenges of noticing everyone for a special assessment, people can come back and challenge whether their property is benefited by burying the lines, potentially meaning litigation against the city.

On top of finding the funding to bury the lines, another issue is timing. Rocky Mountain Power has been working on the project for over four years and since they are in their permitted use, they can begin installing the lines this spring with a 30 days’ notice given to the city.

Rocky Mountain Power is not opposed to the lines being buried but would need a guarantee that the cost would be covered by the city. Gordon says delays could cost the power company large amounts of money, although that exact amount is not known, council indicated they would like to find out what that cost would be to the power company.

After efforts to inform the public, such as through Thursday and Saturday’s meetings, the city plans to issue a professional randomized survey of residents about public perception for paying to bury the lines.