By BILL SHEA
The process of taking the electrical wires off of the poles that line part of First Avenue South and placing them into underground conduits began Monday night with action by the Fort Dodge City Council.
The council voted unanimously to direct MidAmerican Energy to do the work next spring and recover its costs via a fee that will be added to its customers' bills beginning in February 2014.
The power lines will be buried along First Avenue South between Veterans Bridge and 29th Street. As soon as the power line burial is done, a storm sewer upgrade intended to end frequent flooding in that area will begin.
Officials have estimated that the power line work will cost $1.4 million. Paying that off will cost an average residential customer about $4 a month.
Currently, MidAmerican Energy customers are paying a fee for last year's burial of power lines along Fifth Avenue South between 29th and 31st streets. The fee for the First Avenue South work won't go onto the customers' bills until the Fifth Avenue South work is paid off, according to City Manager David Fierke.
''We've timed this so the fees aren't going to stack on top of each other,'' he said.
One resident, Myron Groat of 2735 20th Ave. N., told the council that he objects to paying a fee for the project.
''I'm not against the project,'' he said. ''The project looks good, the results look good. I'm against paying for something that give me a little benefit, if any. This I'm getting no benefit from.''
Groat suggested that the council make those who benefit from the underground power lines pay for them.
Councilman Mark Taylor replied that First Avenue South, including its intersections with 25th and 29th streets, ''kind of services the whole town.''
''Those are a couple of the most busy intersections in town,'' he said.
In other business, the council voted to declare its intent to seek low-interest loans from the state government to pay for water and sanitary sewer system improvements, many of which are related to the North Central Ag Industrial Park.
The council moved to borrow up to $18.4 million for water system work and up to $25.8 million for sanitary sewer system work. The council will have to take additional actions at its Nov. 5 meeting to actually get the money.
During its Oct. 8 meeting, the council members voted to declare the intent to borrow the money for the water system work, only to find they had to do it over because a deadline for advertising that meeting had been missed.
Also on Monday, Fierke reported that the city is seeking permission from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to do some repairs on the Hydroelectric Dam. He said it may take 30 days to get a reply from the state agency.
City leaders want to install some barriers that would prevent Des Moines River water from pouring through broken gates in the dam.