Downtown utility plan embraced

Feb. 21, 2013 @ 05:34 PM

Progress Energy officials presented a draft plan for replacing 65 street lights and poles along Garnett Street they estimate are more than 80 years old.

During a gathering of local government and business leaders at Perry Memorial Library, Progress Energy Sr. Account Executive Gerial Proctor explained maps and plans that would include brief power outages to sections of downtown as the work continued in tandem April through September.

The Progress plan is to work from the opposite ends inward of the Garnett Street strip from Andrews Avenue to Spring Street, dealing with the power circuits as they are currently configured.

“We spend a lot of time looking for options,” Proctor said. “As best as we can determine, the poles we have downtown have been in place for 80 years at least.”

Business leaders expressed appreciation for Progress Energy’s presentation, and their stated willingness to be upfront about the work in order to cause minimal disruption to commerce downtown.

“If we don’t have power, we have to close,” said Phil Hart of Data Forge at 217 S. Garnett St. “We are in the area he mentioned that looks like it will have to be out for a day. That’s OK as long as we know ahead of time.”

Hart said routine data and computer services won’t be effected because of a second location they utilize, but their Garnett Street office would experience a turn at being closed down during the phase of work that takes place where they’re located.

Proctor said most phases calling for power to be turned off to the section being worked on would involve power to remain off for several hours, but there are several points where the work will include more complicated circuitry.

Tommy Breedlove with the Vance County Department of Tourism said the work plan presents no conflicts to tourism activities.

“The only impact we see is if they don’t finish on time,” he said.

Proctor said he expects work to begin in April, possibly as early as March, and to be completed before Oct. 1., several weeks in advance of the Show, Shine, Shag and Dine event downtown.

Some at the gathering asked about underground wiring for the project instead of keeping the wiring overhead. Proctor said after looking at options, the underground wiring appeared to be cost prohibitive.

Randy Cloninger said he is not concerned about the work’s impact on his law office at 208 N. Garnett St.

“I’m not worried about that, I think they have a good plan,” Cloninger said.

Proctor said that existing 35-foot poles will be replaced with taller 40-foot poles in order to comply with changing regulations, and the lighting will be much more uniform.

The overhead wiring will require use of plain poles instead of the more historic looking designed models, but the lights themselves will be the tear-drop style matching the lights on Breckenridge Street between the library and police headquarters.

The work, as currently planned, would begin at the Spring Street intersection working to Winder Street, then work the Rose Avenue intersection to Montgomery Street. The last phase would be to connect the outer sections to the circuit feed’s hub at Breckenridge Street.

The estimate on the city’s portion of the cost is $32,000 for cutting then repairing sidewalk sections where poles are taken out, replaced or where new ones are placed.

Proctor said he could not give an estimate on the Progress Energy project cost.

“It is going to be a sizable investment,” he said.


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