June 13, 2013 | Volume 43, Number 23

Bury utility lines?

Utility lines strung along Main Street, Third Avenue and the waterfront are a concern for some Haines Borough Assembly members, but the path to getting those lines buried is unclear.

Assembly member Debra Schnabel said Tuesday she was disheartened the borough didn’t pursue buried power lines on the construction project at Beach Road and Old Haines Highway.

“I don’t know how this happened that we weren’t given an opportunity to impact the project. If I had a little more courage, I would even move that we contract with (Alaska Power and Telephone) to pull them down and bury them before the asphalt gets put down,” Schnabel said.

Liaison to the planning commission Joanne Waterman said the commission asked the Alaska Department of Transportation about burying lines there, but the state said it would be too expensive. Schnabel said the assembly should get to weigh in on how much it would be willing to pay to get lines buried.

Upcoming reconstruction of Third Avenue from Main Street to Old Haines Highway, for example, does not include burial of utility lines, which manager Mark Earnest estimated at up to $300,000. Earnest said the borough doesn’t have the money to put toward that work.

“We can’t afford it. We don’t have the money to do that. It would be a quarter (of a) million dollars,” Earnest said.

Schnabel said her cursory research showed other municipalities have ordinances mandating burial of power lines if there is disruption of existing power poles on a project.

The assembly voted unanimously to investigate language to form underground utility districts.