“At last night’s meeting, the BLP Board agreed to support the undergrounding project along Harbor Drive from Howard to Columbus,” BLP General Manager Dave Walters said Friday. “They approved the project and agreed to contribute one-third of the costs, up to $300,000, contingent on the city and local property owners paying the remainder.”
BLP officials note that the estimated project cost to bury the lines is $845,000, based on 2017 figures. The 2019 or 2020 commodity and construction costs may be somewhat higher due to current trade issues and contractor workloads, they said.
Additionally, the estimate only covers the municipal utility’s undergrounding portion of the project, and doesn’t cover costs associated with street lighting or other items that may need to be relocated off current BLP poles.
“There is no doubt that these electric system improvements will have a substantial impact on the aesthetic quality of this portion of our downtown,” Walters said. “We all want to see it completed.”
Grand Haven City Council will now be tasked with deciding whether it wants the city to go along with the proposal presented by the BLP — and, if so, how the costs will be shared between the city and property owners along Harbor Drive. Earlier this year, the council hosted a public hearing with property owners along the stretch of road to determine their interest in paying a special assessment to help cover part of the cost.
“There’s a lot of support from the local property owners,” Councilman Josh Brugger said.
The city held off on taking any action until it could be determined if, and how much, the BLP would contribute to the power line burial project.
“Now it is going back to City Council to sort out the other two-thirds of the cost,” Brugger said.
City Manager Pat McGinnis said that he plans to put the item on the council’s Aug. 6 meeting agenda for discussion and consideration.
“If we can get these power lines all beneath the ground, it will be a tremendous transformation,” he said.
McGinnis noted that those who live or own property along that stretch of road have continued to advocate for the burial of the lines.
“They would really like to see those lines buried,” he said. “And we (the city) would like to see those power lines buried.”
The time is right for the project to occur, city officials say.
“Anyone in construction will tell you that the most cost-effective time to put anything underground is when the ground is torn up,” Brugger said, referencing the upcoming Harbor Drive reconstruction project.
The $1.8 million project is being made possible by a $1.15 million grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund, which was awarded last year. It will include the reconstruction of the road between Franklin and Columbus avenues, and replacement of sanitary and storm sewer and water lines.
“If we can get it done, it will be a win/win for the community,” Brugger said.