City Council Continues Discussion About Adding Xcel Surcharge Fee to Bury Power Lines in Lowell Park

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Aerial photo of Lowell Park. (Photo by Eric Beaudry)

The Stillwater City Council on Tuesday will discuss the possibility of burying power lines in Lowell Park.

The idea of burying the power lines — for a surcharge fee — in Lowell Park from Nelson Street to Laurel Street first emerged in February during an otherwise monotonous Stillwater City Council discussion about renewing gas and electric franchise fees for 2015.

Burying the electrical would take the power poles out of the line of sight in Lowell Park, and in downtown, but it comes at a cost.

A preliminary, rough-cost estimate for Xcel to bury the electrical lines downtown is about $1.5 million, Stillwater Public Works Director Shawn Sanders has told the council.

To get a better understanding of the true costs, Xcel would need to do a more detailed engineering estimate, which would cost the city $30,000, and would take three or four months complete.

TIF money could be used for the estimate; however, the city would likely seek an increased surcharge fee for Xcel users to cover the cost of burying the power lines.

One possible way the burying of electrical lines could be funded is through a city-requested surcharge option that could add up to a $4.50 per month surcharge to residential properties for up to five years, City Attorney Dave Magnuson told the council in February. The monthly surcharge could be as high as four times that amount for “large commercial rate payers.”

“That (surcharge) would generate enough money to pay for the under grounding of the electricity on Water Street,” Magnuson said at the time.

When the possibility of burying the power lines came up last winter, the City Council seemed to support the idea, but did not take any action on the surcharge fees.

Other factors Sanders said the city will want to take into account — that will not be a part of XCEL’s estimate — include:

    • Relocating overhead cable and telephone lines, which may be an additional cost to the city.
    • Relocating any private overhead electrical services.
    • Finding locations for new transformers
    • Replacing the lighting for the parking lots after the power poles are removed.
    • Restoration( vegetation, trail, parking lots, and irrigation)
    • Soil conditions
    • Winter construction

Burying Power Lines in Lowell Park

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