Five communities opposed to a proposed new route of overhead power lines along the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway are now considering putting money behind their stance.
Schaumburg's village board next Tuesday will consider a recommendation to spend up to $100,000 to intervene in ComEd's approval process with the Illinois Commerce Commission for its plan to connect substations in Bartlett and Itasca with a line of 140- to 170-foot steel poles.
Elk Grove, Hanover Park, Itasca and Roselle are also in the process of considering similar levels of financial commitment to their combined cause.
"The overhead lines are just devastating, and for more than just aesthetic reasons," Hanover Park Village President Rodney Craig said. "Schaumburg is clearly not standing alone. We're all standing together."
Though Hanover Park has not yet committed to an exact dollar amount, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said his community is preparing to make the same $100,000 authorization.
"We stand with our neighbors," Johnson said.
Schaumburg Village Manager Brian Townsend said the combined fund could be spent on public relations, lobbying, legal fees, and expert consultants and testimony.
In addition to all five communities' concerns about aesthetics and property values, Schaumburg also anticipates a navigational impact on the Schaumburg Regional Airport.
The Federal Aviation Administration recently released a statement endorsing Schaumburg's opinion that the poles would create "a substantial adverse effect on the safe and efficient utilization of the navigable airspace ..."
ComEd officials have stated that the project is needed to boost reliability for the thousands of customers served by the Bartlett substation who receive their power via a single line of wood poles.
The five communities are asking that any needed new power lines be buried, but ComEd has pointed to a state law that requires it to pursue the least costly option for its ratepayers -- in this case, the overhead lines. Townsend said the communities have been told that burying the new lines could cost up to 10 times more than the $50 million to $60 million already anticipated.
While other parties than ratepayers could adopt the cost of burial, the communities don't believe they should be the ones to pay because they aren't actually served by the project.
"We can't afford to pay for it, but we have to work that issue," Craig said.
He added that he hasn't given up on a diplomatic solution, even as the villages begin building a war chest.
ComEd publicly announced the plan late last year, then held a series of four community meetings to explain it and gather input.
"Our first reaction was that this will have a huge impact on the people who live along there," Schaumburg Trustee Tom Dailly said. "It seems to me that this whole thing could have been done better, and that's what frustrates a lot of people."
Townsend said that it's unclear when the ICC might rule, but the five opposing communities are aiming to organize their own plans within the next 30 days.