Hilliard City Council members voted unanimously Monday night to grant American Electric Power (AEP) a waiver to permit above-ground relocation of utility lines for the Triangle Improvement Project.

Hilliard City Council members voted unanimously Monday night to grant American Electric Power (AEP) a waiver to permit above-ground relocation of utility lines for the Triangle Improvement Project.

Citing an additional $2.85-million in costs to the city if the distribution lines were buried underground as required by city code, council members said they simply couldn't justify the expense at a time when the city is tightening its belt because of the economic downturn.

While council members expressed concerns about the appearance of the Triangle area at the intersection of Cemetery Road, Scioto Darby Road and Main Street, Public Service Director Clyde R. Seidle cautioned them that more than $7-million in Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) grants and loans for the project could be jeopardized if the project is delayed.

Council members gave up on the idea of requiring transmission lines be buried because of the $2.3-million cost the city would incur and the fact that would delay the project by as much as 18 months, requiring the city to forfeit the $7-million in OPWC funds.

Seidle's position on the relocation of the distribution lines was similar. He said he didn't know where the city would be able to make up the $2.85-million cost in an already minimal capital improvements budget. He also noted that cable and Internet service providers who currently share space on AEP poles would have to acquire their own easements and that could also jeopardize the project's timeline and funding.

Seidle said if the city required AEP to bury the transmission lines, it would cost an additional $2.3-million. Burial of the distribution lines would have cost another $3.45-million, approximately $2.85-million of which the city would have to pay.

Even if only the distribution lines were buried, Seidle said the total cost of the project would balloon from approximately $11-million to more than $14-million.

According to AEP estimates, burying the transmission lines would cost $3.36-million. Relocating the lines above-ground would cost only $1.065-million, a difference of $2.295-million. AEP officials estimated the cost of burying the distribution lines at $3.425-million compared to $575,000 for an above-ground relocation for a difference of $2.85-million.

The city would have to cover the difference between the cost of relocating the lines underground versus above ground.