Wichita District 1 City Council member Brandon Johnson has called for Evergy (formerly Westar) to replace most of the 105 ft. metal transmission poles installed last fall in Northeast Wichita with wooden poles that “blend better into the community and deliver the same quality of service.”
Last fall, members of the community – including Johnson – were surprised when Evergy began installing the new transmission line in Northeast Wichita, replace the old 65 ft. wooden polls with 105 ft. and much wider metal poles. Instead of installing the poles in the easements outside the sidewalks, the poles were installed on individual property, often dwarfing the small Northeast Wichita homes.
Johnson joined Don Sherman, Evergy’s vice-president for community relations, and key Westar project managers at a press conference held shortly after the lines were installed, as a way to provide community members more information on the process. It was at that meeting that Evergy committed to making the situation right.
The company’s right turned out to be paying some of the property owners more for the easement purchased on their site. Earlier this month, after working with a board of 14 people who live, work and/or serve in District 1, Westar announced a $1 million fund to be used exclusively in 67208, 67214, 67219 for college scholarships and funding non-profit organizations.
In an article published in the April 11, Community Voice, KS Rep. Gail Finney although pleased with the donation expressed concern that the donated money did little to directly help those who were most impacted by the installation of the poles.
Obviously, Johnson was not pleased with the $1 million grant as the solution. No amount of money, he said, would take away from the “unsightly look and feel of these monstrosities.”
“In speaking with the residents throughout this ordeal, it was clear that everyone believed those would be wooden poles,” said Johnson. “The metal poles are the genesis of the issue and are unique to a neighborhood setting. Removing the metal poles is a more permanent solution to this Evergy-created problem.”
Over the past several months, Johnson says he has seen several different kinds of poles around the city that he feels would be more amicable for Northeast Wichita.
Finney has also called for the metal poles to be replaced with wooden ones.
Evergy purchased and paid homeowners for the land on which the poles were installed. Homeowners who opposed the sale were ultimately forced to agree to the installation by the courts through a process called eminent domain.
Reportedly, after community members voiced concern about the poles and how homeowners felt misled by Evergy representatives about the size and type of poles that would be installed, Evergy did go back and increase the payout to some of the homeowners and in some cases purchased the homes.
In support of Evergy’s efforts made to date, Johnson said, “it is still noteworthy that the company did not have to legally do any of the additional work they are doing, but many in the community would prefer a change with the poles.”