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Utilities: Residents concerned about large metal power poles

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Residents of Rapture Court at Rose Run were taken aback when Santee Cooper recently put up huge, metal transmission line poles near their homes.

They’re concerned about the affect on property values, they told officials with the utility during a neighborhood meeting last week. The rusty-looking poles are unattractive, don’t fit in with the look of a residential community and, in some cases, are mere feet away from homes, they complained.

The new poles, being erected from Hagley to Garden City, replaced smaller, wooden poles as part of an upgrade project to allow Santee Cooper to meet growing electricity demands.

The bigger poles can accommodate more lines and transmit more electricity.

“These are the kind of poles you usually see out in the country,” protested one resident who didn’t want to be named.

Christie Pope, a project engineer with Santee Cooper, said the neighborhood didn’t exist when the utility bought an easement with a 50-foot right of way in 1951.

“This was the country,” she said.

The developer chose to build in the middle of the utility’s transmission corridor, she pointed out.

The easement should have been shown on plats when residents purchased their properties, she said, but residents said the developer, Portrait Homes, never informed them about the easement. At least one home was built partially in the right-of-way and neighbors said the occupant was worried she would be forced to move, but Pope assured them that wouldn’t happen.

Some residents said they were also never informed by Santee Cooper about plans to install the poles, though Pope said all affected residents were notified by letter in advance of the work.

Several who did get the letter complained it was “vague” and didn’t adequately explain what the project involved.

Another said the area has “plenty of power” and doesn’t need increased capacity. Reports from Santee Cooper say otherwise.

The upgrade will increase capacity from about 1,000 amps to almost 2,400 amps. With about 165,000 customers, the utility has come close to exhausting its existing capacity, and its customer base continues to grow, said Mollie Gore, a spokesperson for Santee Cooper.

“Even through the recession, our number of customers has increased,” she said.

Pope told residents at Rose Run that she knows people don’t want to look out their windows and see huge utility poles, “but at the same time, you want to have power when you get up and make coffee in the morning,” she said.

Santee Cooper did look at other locations for the pole nearest to homes on Rapture Court, Pope said, but the design engineer advised against another location, so it was put as near the tree line as possible.

The poles should look less conspicuous in about six months when they have had time to weather, Pope said. Eventually, they should be the dark brown of tree bark, helping them blend in with the tree line. Residents asked about burying the wires or painting the poles green, but both are cost prohibitive — astronomically so in the case of putting wires underground, other Santee Cooper officials said.

While similar poles in other areas have been painted green, they scratch easily and maintenance becomes very expensive.

Planting trees around the poles was also discussed. Pope said that is a possibility, but Rose Run residents wanted the utility to pay for it. Pope said she would check into it.

Pope also assured residents that proximity of the poles to homes isn’t a safety or health hazard. There’s more of a health risk due to EMF exposure from using a hair dryer, she said.

Rose Run residents left the meeting unsatisfied.

“We were hoping they would have some consideration to the homeowners,” said Joann Lekperic. “They’re really bringing our values down.”

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