The second round of open houses held by NIPSCO is underway, aimed at informing the public and garnering their input on the proposed routes for the Reynolds-Topeka Electric System Improvement project. The project entails the construction of a 100-mile electric transmission line from Reynolds to Burr Oak to Topeka, and because the proposed routes pass over privately owned properties, the open houses are being held to get input from the public.
Kathleen Szot, communications manager for NIPSCO, explained that the open houses have been very beneficial.
“The open house has been a really good opportunity for us to reach out to the residents, the people who are really going to be most interested in this project and find out what questions and concerns they have. When we’re looking at these routing options, we have some information but we don’t know everything about what’s on these different properties and parcels of land. So it’s really been good for us to learn from the people who are experts in their own back yard,” said Szot.
Szot said the input they’ve gained from the public include information such as farming or irrigation concerns, environmental concerns and even burial plot concerns in some areas.
“We’ve really been able to collect a wealth of information and it’s really important for us to have all that before we begin looking at finalizing a route,” Szot explained.
Once the route has been finalized, Szot said they will send letters to all the residents that have been notified of the project, informing them of the decided route.
“Anyone within 1000 feet of any of the potential routes that we’re looking at right now have been notified with a letter. So once the actual route is selected, which we’re aiming for late August timing, they will actually receive a letter in the mail saying, ‘Yes, you are within 1000 feet of the route we are selecting,’ or, ‘No, you’re not,’” said Szot.
A number of political figures were present at the open house, in addition to dozens of community members and several NIPSCO employees. Pulaski County councilman Mick Tiede said he believes the project is necessary.
“I’ve learned that it doesn’t go across my property, but I really don’t care if it did go across my property because we need the electricity in our community whether we like it or not,” said Tiede.
State Representative Doug Gutwein expressed similar sentiments, explaining the power is something that the area is in need of.
“It’s a project that I believe we have to have. We need more power; we’re running out of power, some of the wind turbines down in the White County area, there’s more proposals for putting wind turbines into Miami County. They have no way to move this power, and we need more power to the north. There’s five proposed routes, and the folks are here at the high school today to see what kind of impact that would have on their property,” said Gutwein.