AEP looks ahead

Company apologizes for keeping people in the dark about tree clearing

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times A thick tree stump sits in the wake of Asplundh tree removal Thursday after AEP Ohio put in new power lines and poles along Eighth Street in Marietta.

Officials with AEP Ohio apologized this week for a lack of communication with Marietta residents regarding the removal of numerous trees, while also outlining plans for more tree removal in the city and beyond.

The north side of Eighth Street had numerous trees felled this month to make way for new American Electric Power lines and poles, a move that caught residents by surprise.

“I first want to clear the air, we did not meet expectations in the community and I’m sorry,” said Tim Seyfrang, manager of distribution for the Athens district of AEP’s systems.

Many Marietta residents who live on Eighth Street between Warren and Washington streets were surprised and upset by the removal of large white oak and sycamore trees without warning.

“Typically we knock on the door and we tell those whose property we’ll be working on ahead of time,” said Seyfrang. “We apologize, this was not the way we do business and we’re committed to making sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Acting Mayor Josh Schlicher said when he was alerted to the trees coming down he inquired in the city’s engineering department first to see if the work had a valid permit filed.

“When I asked (Office Manager Tina Lones) if they had even acquired a permit, originally she couldn’t find one,” he explained. “But she looked back more and found they took out a permit March 23, 2015.”

Lones said the permit does not have an expiration date as long as the work done remains in line with what was outlined on the application.

Seyfrang said for the future plans of line work and tree removal, AEP will work to better inform both city officials and residents.

“It’s our responsibility to keep customers and residents informed,” he said.

Options the company plans on utilizing in the future include: door hangers, postcards, telephone blasts, door-to-door communications and coordination with city officials.

“We spend approximately $50 million a year doing tree work because trees affect the reliability of power,” said Seyfrang. “And on top of that if there’s bad weather that knocks out power or downs a line, there are other safety concerns with people climbing trees that are tangled in lines.”

Seyfrang said the standards AEP follows for trimming and felling trees are outlined by the Society of American National Standards Institute and the Tree Care Industry Association.

“And we have worked out an agreement with the city that either we will be replacing many of the trees with others or providing reimbursement to the city for their workers to do so,” said Seyfrang.

Casey Green, scheduling and design supervisor for the district, said the clearing is part of a larger set of projects covering Washington, Monroe and Noble counties.

Marietta will see additional work on Eighth Street from Warren to East Montgomery streets. East Montgomery Street will see similar work from Fifth to Eighth streets and Seventh Street will see the same from Washington to Greene streets.

“The construction has started now and we’ll be working on this off and on through 2019,” Green explained. “There will be more trees coming down.”

Edith Seiffert, 74, who owns a duplex on Montgomery Street, said she is not pleased with the coming work.

“I don’t like it one bit, trees are pretty important,” she said. “They provide shade, cut energy bills and are beautiful. It will take 40 to 50 years to replace the magnificence.”

But Green said the Marietta construction is necessary to upgrade the type of circuit those on the hospital electric grid are on so that in the case of an outage, more avenues can be utilized to reroute power faster to homes throughout the city on the same lines.

“If they’re different we cannot feed it from different directions and it takes longer for people to get their power back,” he said.

Belpre will also see repairs on AEP facilities and a re-feeding along the lawn sections of Oneal and Sixth streets beginning in May.

“And we’ll be rebuilding an existing transmission line coming from Parkersburg across the river to the Corner area (in Belpre Township),” Green said.

A new substation and lines going in along Sandhill Road in Reno has already begun with tree clearing and an expected completion by year’s end.

“This will bring two new circuits to create additional capacity for the (Ohio 7) corridor,” he explained. “The corridor is growing so we’re creating more capacity to serve future customers.”

Barlow and Watertown will also see some summer construction repairs. Facilities along Harrison, Charles, Maple, Dye and Morus streets in Newport will see work this summer. Little Hocking currently has a project underway to include clearing for better line access along Burnett Road and a projected completion in 2018.

Along the Washington and Monroe county borders, the Rinard Mills area will also see a new transmission line feeding into the Washington Electric Co-op.

In Noble County’s Dexter City and the Macksburg area of Washington County work on a new substation will begin in the fall with an expected completion by the end of 2018. In the Hannibal, Sardis and Duffy areas repairs in the area will begin in May with work on Main and Union streets and Ohio 536 in Hannibal.

Tree trimming and removal is planned for all of the projects.

“But people need to understand that the tree in their yard can affect much more than just their power supply, it can affect thousands of customers,” said Seyfrang.

“It’s definitely a balance to provide service and work with customers on maintaining their trees,” added Suzanne Priore, spokeswoman for AEP Ohio.

The estimated total cost of the projects in the area is $330 million.

Priore said if customers have questions about projects, power outages, their bills or trees in need of trimming or removal near power lines, to call 1-800-672-2231.

By the numbers

AEP transmission line and substation area investments:

Washington County

¯ Marietta:

Approximately $30 million.

¯ Belpre/Corner:

Approximately $10 million.

¯ Reno:

Approximately $ 7.5 million.

¯ Barlow and Watertown:

Approximately $400,000.

¯ Newport:

Approximately $350,000.

¯ Little Hocking:

Approximately $650,000.

Monroe County

¯ Rinard Mills:

Approximately $20 Million – 2019 tree clearing 2021 completion

¯ Sardis/Hannibal:

Approximately $400,000.

Washington/Noble CountIES

¯ Macksburg/Dexter City:

Approximately $15 million.

Source: Casey Green and Suzanne Prior