LACONIA — Electric utility Eversource plans to build a power line through a scenic vista on Parade Road (Route 106). The company says the new line will make electric service more reliable but residents who live nearby say the line would be an eyesore.
The neighbors want the upgraded line built along Old Parade Road where the power lines run now. Eversource representatives said that would mean the project would cost more and take longer to complete.
On Thursday, the neighbors, along with city and state officeholders, met with representatives of Eversource on Old Parade Road to press their case that the part of the line slated to go through a piece of the Prescott State Forest should be abandoned in favor of upgrading the existing line.
State Rep. Peter Spanos said Gov. Chris Sununu is taking a personal interest in the issue and added, “It’s Sununu’s preference to see this view not blighted.”
The current line is shielded from view by trees which line both sides of Old Parade Road which abuts the state forest. The new line would run for about two-tenths of a mile through an open field, and so would be more conspicuous. The current line is about one-quarter of a tenth of a mile longer.
Eversource Transmission Supervisor Josh Letourneau said the new stretch of line is a small part of a new 21,200-foot power line which runs along Roller Coaster Road, then down Parade Road as far as Windemere Heights. The line is designed to feed electricity to 7,320 customers from two directions, which should reduce the length of outages, Letourneau said.
Residents Philip McLaughlin and Liz Nixon faulted Eversource for not notifying the abutting neighbors.
Kaitlyn Woods, an Eversource spokesman, said the utility had discussed the change as early as January with the state Department of Transportation, which owns the land where the new line is to go. The utility also discussed it with the Laconia Public Works Department, she said.
McLaughlin called it ironic that, two weeks ago, he and other neighbors received a letter from the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to notify him that the state planned to plant apple trees on the street across from his property, but that he wouldn’t be notified of the construction of a power line in the same area.
“If I’m an abutter in one matter, I’m an abutter in all matters,” McLaughlin said.
McLauglin noted that, if the new line is built, he will not be able to see it from his house.
“I’m advocating for the public interest, not for my interest,” he said.
Laconia City Councilor Bruce Cheney, who represents Ward 1 where the line would be built, said it was a matter of being sensitive to aesthetic concerns.
“I’ve had more calls about this in the last three days than I have ever received about anything else in the last year and a half,” said Cheney.
Eversource Engineering Manager San Bosse said that, if the upgraded line were to be built along Old Parade Road, it would potentially involve cutting some trees, as well as more extensive tree-trimming. He also said the new poles would be 50 feet tall, compared to the 40-foot poles in place now.
Neighbor Ann Marie Shumway said, “You’re doing this because you choose to. You should have more sensitivity. We’re hoping you’d reconsider.”
Spanos told the Eversource officials that the utility should consider the public relations repercussions of its decision.
“It’s not going to be worth the backlash for you,” he said.
When Spanos asked if he could report back to the governor that Eversource would try to reach some type of accommodation on the matter, the utility representatives indicated they would; but when McLaughlin asked the utility to commit to giving a notice of at least five business days should the utility decide to move ahead with the new line as planned, they did not respond.
“Go back and tell your people we want those poles gone,” Cheney said. “We know it will cost a few dollars more. Maybe it’s best for Eversource to go the extra mile and not cause this blight.”