Lake Forest nixes $360K cost to bury short stretch of downtown power lines

Spending more than $360,000 to remove four ComEd poles and bury 805 feet of power lines near the East Lake Forest train station is not an expense Lake Forest leaders want to take on — or pass along to residents through higher electricity bills.

Instead, aldermen agreed at their Aug. 4 meeting to have ComEd relocate the poles between Westminster Avenue and Deerpath at no expense to the city. The poles are in the way of a new section of the McClory bike path that will be paid for by a grant.

The new path section will provide a safe route through downtown Lake Forest for McClory trail users. Rather than cutting through the train station parking lots along McKinley Road to connect to the McClory bike path, trail users will have a new path that jogs west of the parking lots.

Public Works Committee Chairman and 1st Ward Alderman Catherine Waldeck asked the full City Council for its input Monday night.

“We all agree, from an aesthetic standpoint, burying these poles would be the most aesthetically pleasing,” Waldeck said at the start of the discussion. “But $360,000 is just a heck of a lot of money to bury four poles that have been there a long time.”

The poles in question have been along the east side of the train station for 100 years, officials said.

Fourth Ward Alderman Michelle Moreno, also a member of the Public Works committee, agreed.

“As much as I would love to see this done, I cannot support the price tag,” Moreno said.

First Ward Alderman Prue Beidler asked if there would be a safety issue for bikers on the path with the new pole locations.

The poles will be installed three feet from the new path, which is within the acceptable standards, officials said.

City Manager Bob Kiely said a joint property owner expressed interest in contributing to the cost of burying the lines and removing the poles. He said he would look into the specifics and get back to aldermen with details.

“There is going to be major construction in that area and these are going to become very visible because the landscaping is coming out,” Kiely cautioned.

The city received five grants totalling just over $3 million to renovate the interior and exterior of the historic downtown train station, install a bike shelter, reconfigure the parking lot and lay a new section of the McClory bike path. The city’s cost for those projects is estimated at $486,000.

Second Ward Alderman George Pandaleon asked if any of the grants the city received could be modified to cover the cost of burying the 805-foot stretch of power lines.

“We will look further and see if there’s a possibility, but our read-through is that it’s not allowable,” Director of Public Works Michael Thomas said.

If the circumstances change and the City Council agrees to bury the power lines and remove the poles, aldermen could choose to pay the cost entirely from the city budget or have the amount paid via ComEd’s “Rider LGC, Local Government Compliance” program. For the Rider LGC program, ComEd would apply an additional per kilowatt-hour charge onto monthly bills of customers within the municipal boundaries of Lake Forest. The monthly charge would occur until the entire project cost is paid in full.

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