Chairman questions utility’s price tag

Milaca – Mille Lacs County Board Chairman Roger Tellinghuisen challenged an item in the packet that listed the $142,000 cost for Great River Energy to move a power pole and line sitting within the new alignment of County Road 22, a roadway re-alignment project to improve a dangerous curve.

Tellinghuisen asked why the county and project personnel had not been aware of the utilities in the chosen alignment and said the cost for moving the power lines was more than the county paid to demolish an old farmstead in the alignment. The chairman said it was a lot of money to pay before they’d even started the actual road and he might not have voted in favor of the project if he’d known about the pole-moving expense.
County Engineer Bruce Cochran said, “We knew we would have impact on the power lines, but we didn’t know to what extent.”
He explained that GRE has a private easement for its rural poles, so the county is obligated to reimburse the cost for moving them. Cochran said the project expense would be eligible for state-aid reimbursement.
He said the proposed design had been submitted to GRE, but the county hasn’t received it back yet. There had been a recent meeting in which the company was made aware that the county is “under the gun” to finish the road. Cochran said the line and pole move should be made within six weeks or so.
Commissioner Phil Peterson said the board has discussed the safety of the road for a while and decided it was important. Any action taken would have affected the poles and lines.
Tellinghuisen contended that things would not work “that way” with a car or other work estimates. He said the board should know all the costs upfront when making a decision and that the cost for the move sounded too high.
Peterson said there is always a cost for going through the process. He said if they have rural easements, the county has to respect them.
“At the end of the day, you’re going to have a safer road,” Peterson said.
Commissioner David Oslin said he can remember when the $100,000 cost to move power lines killed a deal to develop a McDonald’s. He said sometimes, there is a lot more cost than that. Oslin said while it would have been nice to know about the expense earlier, he speculated that the actual cost could come in less than the estimate. Oslin also mentioned that it is actually four poles that must be moved for the road-re-alignment project.