Thursday, April 25, 2013
Eureka Springs city council took on the SWEPCO transmission line controversy at Monday night’s city council meeting. “The impact on some of our most treasured visual features cannot be overstated,” alderman James DeVito said. He mentioned a proposed route for the 150-foot tall towers would make them visible from Spring Street, Thorncrown Chapel, Inspiration Point and Beaver Lake. “And that is just the visuals, not to mention the impact of herbicide-spraying. The fact that the line is not in city limits does not mean it won’t affect us.”
He went on to say the proposed northern route for the transmission lines showed “a callous disregard for the assets of the community.”
DeVito was not only one with objections. Alderman David Mitchell said he was appalled when he heard of the idea. He said it is like the city is being raped. Mitchell urged council to pass a resolution supporting the Save the Ozarks group, a citizen-based coalition opposed to the SWEPCO plan.
Save the Ozarks was well represented during Public Comments. Doug Stowe said he had received notice from SWEPCO of the proposed line on April 2 because a tower will be erected very near his front porch. He agreed the proposal should concern everyone in the area. He said he learned the proposed line through the area would have a higher transmission capacity than the line used by the State of Maine to send electricity to Canada. He called it “an interstate highway of electricity” which would carry more power than our area needs. Not only that, a proposed second line would be even larger.
Stowe called on council to express the city’s disapproval of the plan.
Four other speakers who shared his sentiments followed. Patricia Helwig pointed out herbicides would be sprayed in perpetuity along the clear-cut swath. She was dismayed she was given only 30 days to file a complaint when Judge Sam Barr and Mayor Morris Pate knew about the proposal last autumn. She claimed the boilerplate documents from SWEPCO did not represent good science, and property values along the path will plummet. When properties lose value, she pointed out, the city will collect less tax revenue, so how will the city pay for its schools and city services?
Eileen Powell, Glenn Crenshaw and Jeff Danos also objected to the SWEPCO plan. Powell noted 800 acres of the Ozarks would be contaminated by SWEPCO herbicides. She said, “It is unconscionable not to fight the transmission line.”
Crenshaw, a Realtor, also noted the impact on property values, and said visitors do not come here to see transmission lines.
Danos also asked council to take a stand. He said there would be a tower every 800 ft. for 50 miles, and property owners do not want the line across their property. He asked council not to look the other way but take a stand against the “SWEPCO disaster.”
Alderman Joyce Zeller asked what was SWEPCO’s justification for the proposal. DeVito said SWEPCO proposed several routes, and “three of them are in our neighborhood.”
Helwig added that among criteria for deciding where to put the line, beauty was lower on the list than “cheap.” Also the company used flyovers and no feet on the land during the planning. A priority was whether or not a piece of land was used for grazing.
Alderman Terry McClung said it sounded like a cop-out to him the federal government has no say in this matter, and he would support Mitchell’s idea of a resolution from council.
Zeller objected to the “callous attitude” of choosing the route just because cows are not grazing on the land. She said people come here to see the scenery, and this project will destroy the view.
Alderman Dee Purkeypile moved to have DeVito serve as a council liaison to work with city attorney Tim Weaver and any interested citizens to draft a resolution stating council’s objection to SWEPCO’s plan. DeVito agreed to serve as liaison and vote on the motion was unanimous.
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