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Move falls flat to defund buried power lines on US 1 in Woodbridge

The effort to kill the $12.1-million appropriation needed to bury power lines along US 1 in Woodbridge came to a halt Jan. 13 when Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted it down at a public hearing in McCoart Government Center.

The move to defund the power line part of the road widening was promoted by Pete Candland, (R-Gainesville), and newly-elected Jeanine Lawson, (R-Brentsville).

They were the only supervisors voting to pull funding originally approved by the board in December 2013. Candland also voted against the measure at that session, and Lawson was not on the board.

Candland told the Jan.6 meeting he thought the money to put the utilities underground could be spent more efficiently if it were used to address the overcrowding “crisis in the classroom,” for a new fire station, to reduce the BPOL tax, replacement buses for PRTC or new equipment for first responders. He said he was against taking $11 million from the general capital reserves and $1.1 million from the recordation tax surplus to bury the power lines.

The Gainesville supervisor contended burying the utility lines is a beautification project, not a transportation use.

“We’re raiding the transportation fund for a beautification project,” Candland asserted. “Do we spend $12.1 million on a nice beatification project, or do we start to address more critical issues that have largely been ignored?”

But only two of the 30 people who addressed the issue at citizens’ time agreed pulling funding for burying the lines would be a good idea.

Bill Petrak, Woodbridge, contended classrooms are overcrowded in the county, more apartments are being built and there are “sidewalks to nowhere. You can’t walk to Potomac Library. People are dying because there are no sidewalks.” He urged “not wasting money” on burying the lines.

Another speaker pointed out a North Carolina feasibility study shows there are higher costs to burying utility lines, and that outages last longer. He contended the life expectancy of aboveground utility lines is more than 50 years, while those underground last 30 years or less.

Those speaking in favor of burying the lines included Hilda Barg, who represented Woodbridge District on the board of supervisors for many years.

She noted she’d “worked 27 years with Maureen Caddigan and John Jenkins on redevelopment of Rt. 1.” Caddigan represents Potomac District on the board, while Jenkins is Neabsco District representative.

Barg called any vote against putting the lines underground “a vote against economic development.”

Also coming out against canceling funding for the line burying were Dorothy Karnak, Allan Dixon, Ann McDowell, Clancy McQuigg, John Karnak, Harry Wiggins, John Dawson, Carlos Cecchi, developer of Rivergate, Dick Lynn, Betty Dean from Prince William Chamber of Commerce, and Kevin Raymond.

Dorothy Karnak said burying the lines would make the area more attractive and make “the gateway look as if we’re proud of it.”

McQuigg, who said he was speaking for LOCCA/PELT civic association, said his group “has been waiting 30 years for this to happen.”
John Karnak asked, “What will the business community think if this is killed?”

Wiggins contended that Candland’s recent vote to approve the Rivergate project in Wood-bridge District will add more than 700 apartments to the area, which will necessitate the school district’s “adding 10 new classrooms.”

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