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Glasgow battles KC Power & Light's plans to put lines, tower in park

Saturday, June 7, 2008 | 6:02 p.m. CDT; updated 12:58 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

GLASGOW — Officials of tiny Glasgow in central Missouri are fighting plans by utility Kansas City Power & Light to put eight power lines and a 189-foot tall steel tower in a city park.

“It’s gotten to be an ‘us versus them’ type of thing,” Mayor Fred Foley said. “I think it’s the first time they’ve been up against a small, rural area like this.”

The ill will has become so pointed that city leaders have wondered if a recent brief power outage was deliberate. The company denied that, but said an employee’s alleged comments that KCP&L turned out Glasgow’s lights were being investigated.

“We obviously take this very seriously,” said Katie McDonald, KCP&L spokeswoman. “They have a right to their position and to be heard.”

KCP&L has planned to move the lines to the park from across a bridge that will be torn down. Company officials also plan to meet with Foley to explore alternatives.

But in a letter to the city last month, a lawyer for KCP&L said the city moratorium was “clearly contrary to the law,” and any effort to interfere with the power-line construction would be viewed “most seriously.”

Alderman Michael Gebhardt calls the utility’s letter “scare tactics.”

“They expect us to suffer for 50 or 100 years with this,” he said.

The tower in Stump Island Park would hover over one of the Missouri River’s busiest fishing and recreational boat ramps. The park has soccer fields, picnic areas and a campground. The tower and lines would occupy 1.8 acres of the park.

The park in Glasgow, population 1,200, is noted as the closest public river access, at about two miles downstream, to a spot where Lewis and Clark stopped one night in 1804.

New power lines are needed because existing lines run across a highway bridge over the Missouri that, beginning Aug. 4, will be torn down and closed for a year.

Glasgow hopes to persuade KCP&L to take an alternativeto overhead power lines. The city has said the lines could be run across an adjacent railroad bridge until the new bridge is built and then strung there. Or the lines could be extended over the river at a different location, or run beneath the river, they said.

“We don’t want it here,” Gebhardt said. “It’s at our main entrance to the park, it’s (by) the boat ramp, it’s where our kids play.”

But KCP&L indicated that erecting overhead power lines through the park could be the least-costly option. If KCP&L goes a more expensive route, the city or a third party would have to make up the cost difference, a lawyer for the utility said in a letter to the city May 12.

KCP&L finds no legal right for the city to stop the project, because a franchise granted by Glasgow in 1971 and renewed in 1991 gave KCP&L right of way through the park.

But the city signed an agreement with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in 1976 accepting federal money for park improvements with the stipulation that no utility lines be placed overhead in the park. If they were, the city would be liable for damages, said William Daily, the city’s lawyer. That agreement trumps the franchise with KCP&L, he said.

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