EATON RAPIDS, Mich. — The electrical and cable lines in downtown Eaton Rapids could soon be placed underground.
Councilwoman Pam Colestock said the council has been discussing the project for the last couple of years.
“We know that there are some other municipalities in the state that have their own electrical utility like Eaton Rapids. That has done this to either all of their downtown or maybe they’ve only converted partial utility to the underground. So, we wanted to take a look at that," she said.
The council brought the topic back up because, over the next five years, there will be street repaving projects in downtown and, if the plan were to pass, it would be a good idea do it at the same time.
Having electrical and power lines underground would beautify the downtown, Colestock said, but the biggest benefit is reliability.
“Your lines are no longer going to be affected or impacted by weather events like wind and ice. But you’re also not going to have any kind of catastrophic events you know like damage to power poles that would take out power,” Colestock said.
There are some drawbacks though. Colestock said repairs would take a little longer and the equipment that feeds power to the underground lines takes up a lot of pavement space.
“You’re looking at possibly taking up some sidewalk space, some parking lot space," she said. "And that's something that we really are not sure [about]. You know you get rid of one element with a power pole and all the lines and wires but then you also have a big box that essentially is going to be sitting on pavement taking up space.”
Cities that have buried their electrical and cable lines in their downtown areas include Marquette, Traverse City and South Haven.
Last week, the City Council was presented with a preliminary proposal from GRP Engerineering, which has done this type of project in several municipalities in the state.
The preliminary cost for the project came in at about $3.2 million. Colestock said there’s not a lot of grant opportunities for projects like this but that the council will be doing more research to figure out where the money will come from if they decide to go through with the project.
Councilman William Steele said if passed the project would be done in six phases.
He also said he’s undecided but concerned about “the fact that electricity and water don’t mix.
"We’ve had floods here in Eaton Rapids a few years before I was born," he said, "But anytime we have a possibility of floods then that will infiltrate the conduits system. I’m being assured that it’s all protected and sealed so the possibility of electrical water interference is real minimal.”