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IDB torn between underground, overhead lighting after price quote

By By Adam Prestridge
Lighting the Rivercane development at Interstate 65 has posed itself to be another hurdle for members of the Atmore Industrial Development Board to clear before infrastructure is in place.
The main topic of discussion during the board's meeting Thursday morning at Atmore City Hall was what method would be used for providing electricity to the development: underground lines or standard pole service.
Underground lines have proven to be the best route to go for beautification purposes at Rivercane, but following the meeting, the board is torn after learning how costly it would be.
The board's options are simple: agree to run the power underground and pay Alabama Power Company a price tag of $350,000 for just Phase 1 of the multi-phase project, not to mention an additional $50,000 the city would have to cough up for trenching, or pay nothing and have standard, overhead pole service run to the facility.
"Whatever needs are in Rivercane, we've got a plan for it," Alabama Power engineering manager Mark Custred said. "We've designed the underground power plan to meet maximum load that can go out there."
According to Custred, since not all the property at Rivercane has been sold, it is hard to determine how much power to provide because it is unknown what type of businesses will build in Phase 1.
The Industrial Development Board allotted $150,000 in its budget for underground power for Phase 1, which is $250,000 less than what Custred quoted.
"That's out of our budget by a pretty good bit," Industrial Development Board chairman Richard Maxwell said.
APC engineer Tom Sheffield, who was also on hand during the meeting, said pricing and the demand for copper has elevated the cost of underground power, but has also caused a six-month lead-time on some equipment needed. So in order for APC to be ready when contractors begin construction anywhere from six to eight months from now, the board has to make a decision within a matter of weeks.
"We'll be ready when the customer is, whatever it takes," Custred said.
Even though underground power is the route the board would like to take, every property line would still have a switching box and pull box, making the presence of power still noticeable, according to Sheffield. Even if the board agreed on underground, Sheffield also said that two poles would have to be erected at the entrance of Rivercane in order to access the power from the other side of Hwy. 21. Having poles at the entrance did not sit well with the board.
After hearing Alabama Power's proposal, city engineer Euel Screws with Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood made several suggestions that may help save the city money.
Screws suggested that if the city did go with the poles that "you could off different poles at multiple places."
Sheffield agreed.
"We could conceal it," he said.
Screws said that the city could also look into altering the Rivercane covenants requiring property owners to take the overhead power underground to their business.
"I think we need to look over some numbers and come up with a plan to see if we can find $350,000 in our budget because I don't think it exists," board member Jim Johnson said.
Atmore mayor Howard Shell agreed stating that the board needed to weigh its options, meet again and see if it's feasible to go underground. If not, they would need to meet with Screws and see how the overhead power could tie in with the project.
Screws and Maxwell agreed to work on several options to present to the board at its next meeting.