JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Bartram Springs residents were heard loud and clear at a scheduled JEA board meeting on Tuesday.
The utility company has agreed to hold off, at least for now, on a power line expansion project in the neighborhood near the Duval-St. Johns county after hearing opposition from concerned residents.
"We hear you," said JEA Board of Directors Chairman Alan Howard.
To keep up with electric demand in the booming area, JEA planned to add more than 100 new power poles and lines along U.S. 1 north of Race Track Road, which would link power substations in Bartram Springs.
Some residents in Bartram Springs said the utility company failed to adequately share its plans. An online petition was started and gained more than 1,200 signatures. The petition requests that JEA put the power poles in an area with less residents. The petition also cites noise concerns:
"They plan to remove trees that are currently providing a sound barrier. So in addition to increased train noise, a nice 'hum' will be heard throughout the neighborhood," wrote petitioner Stephanie Mckinney.
Eight upset residents went a step further and voiced their opposition at Tuesday's JEA board meeting.
While the meeting was unrelated to the power pole project and was instead scheduled to provide a status update on the company’s new corporate headquarters, residents said that they wanted their concerns heard.
"I am basically here to voice my outrage. I’m just trying to find out what is going on and why we didn’t know about this until now," said Bartram Springs reside Jim Ponce. "I see trees already been taken down by the railroad and I just want to make sure I know what is happening."
The power poles would be near Ponce's property. Some Bartram Springs residents said they’re worried about the power lines and are concerned the power poles will decrease property value. Health issues and concerns about cancer from the project were also brought up. Tina August, who lives in the area, said she has read studies on both sides of the possible health issues and had concerns.
"We need to be in discussion on these things," August said. "This was sort of sprung on us. Nobody had any real idea of what the project was."
After listening to concerned neighbors, and with the understanding that the neighborhood association has hired an attorney, the JEA board chairman said they are going to pull back on the plan for now.
"We have stopped work on this project for the moment," Howard said. "There is another town meeting being planned."
Howard went on the say these will not be high transmission lines, and they will run next to the road and tracks and there will be a buffer.
JEA was expected to remove trees and vegetation, and begin survey work for the project next month. The project is now on hold and the town hall meeting will be scheduled at the end of March. The utility company is revising its neighborhood notification system and said it will send out mailers to residents about upcoming projects.