BRIDGEWATER — Power lines will be buried in Bridgewater along North Main Street starting in 2019.
Town Manager Jay Litten said Town Council granted a 40-year agreement, referred to as a franchise, with Dominion Energy on Tuesday. Mayor Ted Flory and council members Bill Miracle, Travis Bowman, Dillina Stickley, Fontaine Canada, Jim Tongue and Steve Schofield voted to approve the franchise, Litten said.
Dominion must get an easement, lease or franchise to use public property to provide electricity to the town, Litten said.
“The [new] franchise requires them to assist us in moving power lines underground at specified intervals,” Litten said.
Council’s vote triggered the first interval, he said. Dominion will bury power lines along about 1,000 feet of North Main Street, roughly from Hussey’s Automotive to Bridgewater United Methodist Church.
The previous agreement between the town and Dominion expired, which gave the town the opportunity to discuss burying power lines as part of its new agreement, he said. Staff have been negotiating the franchise for at least the last six months.
“We’re pretty excited about that because getting power lines underground has been a very important objective of ours for decades now,” Litten said. “We now have a tool that over the term of the franchise will certainly get all the power lines, or at least most of the power lines on Main Street, buried.”
Being underground has additional benefits than just aesthetics.
“The power lines are really much safer underground than they are overhead,” he said, “because a traffic accident will not knock over a pole and cut the power lines.”
Litten said most residents prefer underground utilities, and all utilities in the newer sections of town are buried.
Dominion will design the underground system, and the town will install infrastructure to contain the power lines.
The town does not know how much the project will cost, he said, but will know more when Dominion presents the plans.
Council also unanimously approved a $160,000 loan from Farmers & Merchants Bank to purchase 0.3 acres for improvements in the Generations Park area, Litten said.
The town will pay back the loan over five years at an interest rate of 2.48 percent. In May, council approved purchasing the parcel, located at 406 N. Main St., for $150,000.
The rear portion of the lot will provide at least a dozen more parking spaces for the area, and the town wants to sell the front portion for commercial use.
The sale closes today, and staff will determine in the coming weeks whether the house on the parcel could have a commercial use. If not, the town may demolish it.
Bridgewater has been adding parking to the area when the opportunity arises over the last several years, Litten said.
“The whole idea of the Generations Park Neighborhood District was that we could invite businesses to come into the district without the need to build big parking lots,” he said, “thereby creating a more business-friendly environment.”
In 2015, Generations Park was completed for $915,000 and features a Jalapeno Southwest Grill location, ice-skating rink, storage and restroom areas. In the warmer months, the ice rink hosts Bridgewater’s farmers market and movie nights.