Mayor Wayne Lippert (left) discusses the relocation of 30th Avenue utility services underground with B.C. Hydro’s Greg Jackson and Dag Sharman.

Underground power takes root downtown

Beautification has reached new depths in an emerging part of Vernon’s downtown core.

Beautification has reached new depths in an emerging part of Vernon’s downtown core.

Traditional power poles have disappeared at 30th Avenue and 28th Street and all utility services are now firmly underground.

“This is a natural progression to keep downtown vibrant,” said Mayor Wayne Lippert.

“We want this area to be as pleasing as possible.”

Undeveloped for years, the east end of 30th Avenue is now anchored by the Tolko Industries office, the Nixon Wenger Lawyers building and the  new library branch, which will open next spring.

As part of beautification, the city entered into negotiations with BC Hydro to place utility lines underground.

The project was complex because construction was taking place in the library and Nixon Wenger buildings and adjacent merchants were in need of electricity.

“We tried to get all of the conduits underneath while keeping the overhead services online and the neighbourhood operating,” said Greg Jackson, a BC Hydro distribution design technician.

Hydro began its initial preparations in June 2010.

Some residents may have questioned why 30th Avenue was closed for so long, but Lippert says the scope of the project, which includes a new road surface and landscaping, made that necessary.

“The power wasn’t shut down and water and sewer were still available to the area,” he said.

“These people (crews) were working with live systems.”

Beyond getting rid of unsightly poles, the initiative will provide Hydro with service reliability because the lines won’t be subject to wind, ice or tree branches.

“Motor vehicle accidents (striking poles) is one of the greatest causes of power outages,” said Dag Sharman, BC Hydro’s community relations manager.

It was also deemed dangerous to have the new buildings in close proximity to a live power source.

“If the line was still there, how would people wash windows?” said Jackson.

The total project cost was $900,000, with funds coming from the city, BC Hydro, Telus, Nixon Wenger and Okanagan Regional Library.

“This really speaks to the co-operation of all participants,” said Sharman.


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