Board passes request to bury power lines near Montessori School

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County supervisors unanimously decided Tuesday to move forward with a plan that would bury power lines near Milwaukee's Montessori School and Underwood Parkway. This, after students and residents flooded the committee meeting asking the supervisors to oppose the plan for overhead lines.
Students from Milwaukee's Montessori School and neighbors nearby took their fight against high-voltage overhead power lines by their school at 95th street, near Bluemound Rd. straight to members of the Milwaukee County Board Tuesday. Their message: "Bury the Power Lines," which would come within just hundreds of feet of the school. "Not only could the high-voltage power lines cause childhood leukemia in ages zero to 14, but it immediately decreases the property value of our school," Milwaukee Montessori eighth-grader Rebecca Mesnick said during Tuesday's meeting.

American Transmission Company, or ATC, was hired by We Energies to create and build two high-voltage lines that would connect to a substation to increase current service. If built, the 138,000 volt power transmission line would come within hundred of feet of the school and a nearby church.

The transmission company argues that overhead lines that rise 60 to 80 feet above the ground are cheaper to build, claiming underground lines could be four to seven times more expensive. The cost of the project ranges from $14 million to $40 million, depending on the options. "Things we looked at was impact on people, impact on the environment and we looked at trying to relocate around existing infrastructure," Peter Holtz from ATC said.

In a 6-0 vote, the committee of supervisors sided with residents to "bury the lines."  The protest against the overhead lines is also backed by the City of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee County Parks Department Board. "To make sure that our parks and parkways don't become highways for transmission lines, which is really the importance of that resolution," Milwaukee County Supervisor Jim Schmitt said.

As for what's next, the American Transmission Company will be presenting four proposed routes, both overhead and underground options, to the Public Service Commission. The Commission has the ultimate say on which transmission routes will be approved. That decision won't be made until early 2013.