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HILLSVILLE — With cooperation from utility companies, the estimated cost of moving electric, phone and cable lines in Hillsville is much less than what town officials expected to pay.
Hillsville Town Council heard the good news at its Jan. 14 meeting.
“It will only be a third of the price we were always told it would be,” said Town Manager Larry South.
Removing the unsightly utility lines from in front of historic buildings, like the old Carroll courthouse and the Carter Home, has long been a wish list item in downtown revitalization discussions.
Last year, as part of the downtown revitalization program, town officials discussed how the wires strung from poles along Main Street detract from the district’s aesthetic value.
The tangle of lines clutters photos of the historic buildings, for example.
The cost of moving the lines was projected to fall somewhere between $700,000 and $800,000.
Town council contracted with engineering firm of Greenhorne and O’Mara — a group that has dealt with similar utilities issues — to explore moving or burying the lines.
On Jan. 14, South presented the firm’s report, which found that the total project cost would only total about $324,296.
“The lines would go back to Pine Street, from West Grayson out to Carroll Street,” South said.
Embarq will put in $88,139 to move its telephone lines, and Comcast will move its lines at no expense to the town.
That would leave Hillsville to pay the remaining $236,157. Of that cost, South said $30,500 would be to move American Electric Power lines.
Mayor Randall Gravley suggested contacting AEP to see if it would cover that cost, leaving Hillsville to pay the remaining $205,657.
South said he has contacted the state Department of Housing & Community Development about funding for the project.
Council member Orba Alderman said he had a feeling that some of the multitude of lines strung on Main Street aren’t even in use.
“We’ve asked [the utility companies] to ensure that all are being used,” South said. “Only one or two of Comcast’s lines weren’t being used and were removed.”
The town manager said he was happy with the estimate.
“It would be nice if we could accomplish that. It would be good for downtown.”
In other action, council:
• heard a concern from a woman in the audience, who worried about new propane tanks installed at Cranberry Apartments, in light of the recent propane tank leak in Fries that caused a deadly explosion.
“Who inspects to see if they have rails around them?” she asked.
South said barriers are not required because the tanks “are far enough away from the travel lanes” not to need protection from vehicles.
Town Engineer James Taylor inspected the tanks recently, South said.
“There’s one awful close to the building,” the woman said.
South said he would confirm with Taylor that all three tanks had been checked.
“I just don’t want to get blowed up,” the woman said. “Half of Jett Street would be gone if they [exploded].”
Council Member Bill Tate said common sense tells him that propane tanks need protection, regardless of whether required by code. “It don’t matter where the tanks are at, they need barriers.”
Gravley agreed that tanks in town should be protected from vehicles.
• set a public hearing for Feb. 11 to hear comments on the sale of land off North Main Street, a right of way for a street that was never constructed.
A property owner on one side of the unbuilt street has offered the town $1,500, said Town Attorney Greg Goad.
The man wants to buy property across the right of way from his land, and connect the two properties. But, the street is in the way unless the town abandons it.
Goad said the street was laid out years ago and forgotten.
• learned that Hillsville and the downtown association are still researching the placement of mailboxes in the shopping district, to serve businesses there.
Patti Ashley of the downtown association said the group had discussed mailboxes, but had no suggestions.
• heard comments about how nice lights on downtown poles looked over the holiday season.
Council Member Greg Yonce said he’d been asked if they could stay up.
South said he’d heard similar requests. “We plan to leave them up longer, maybe until daylight savings time” in April.
Gravley said he was glad to hear that. “It adds to the festive look downtown.”
• appointed Bill Brown as the Pine Creek District member on the Hillsville Planning Commission.
Brown will fill an unexpired term that ends in January 2010.