Montessori school children rally for buried power lines

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MILWAUKEE -- "Bury the Lines" was the slogan for students and residents fighting proposed overhead high-voltage power lines that would go above a Milwaukee Montessori School on North 95th Street, near Bluemound Road. The students urged the Milwaukee Common Council's Judiciary Committee to consider burying these power lines instead.

The Milwaukee Common Council Judiciary Committee meeting was packed - mainly with students too young to vote. "I want my playground to be safe. I want to live in a healthy and educated community. Therefore, I want to bury the power lines," one student said.

The Milwaukee Montessori School is in the proposed path of a 138,000 volt power transmission line. The company ATC was hired by We Energies to develop and build two high-voltage lines to upgrade and increase its current service. Overhead lines towering 60 to 80 feet above ground are least expensive. Underground lines could be more expensive.

The project ranges from $14 million to $40 million, depending on the options.

Alderman Murphy was proposing a compromise - not proposed by ATC. "To allow the construction of the line to be buried from a point in my district, running along 95th Street to Wisconsin Avenue, and then subsequently to allow for an opportunity for an overhead line to allow for the power to go into the substation in the Medical Research Park," Murphy said.

The overhead power line in his proposal would be over a vacant field. Murphy laid out his option, but as one alderman indicated, the Montessori students sold it. "If people build power lines above ground, their property's value declines. Plus, with the economy not in the best shape, this can affect many families," one student said.

The Judiciary Committee passed Murphy's proposal. The proposal approved by the Judiciary Committee will go before the full Common Council for a vote. If it passes there, the Common Council will submit it to the Public Service Commission, which has the ultimate say on which transmission route will be approved. Once a plan is approved, the new power lines and substation could be operational by spring of 2015.

"I think it was a good lesson in democracy, and understanding that as adults, they can help shape their community for the better," Milwaukee Montessori Head of School Monica Van Aken said.