Almost underground

A few of the electrical lines that stretched between utility poles along First Avenue South near 25th Street have disappeared underground.

But there are a lot more of them still up in that area, and city and utility officials said most of the work to place them beneath the ground will be done next year.

The conversion to underground utilities was scheduled to begin in July.

Design issues and the need to acquire real estate easements have slowed the project, according to Chad Schaeffer, the city’s director of engineering, business affairs and community growth.

He said the city government is acquiring those easements for MidAmerican Energy.

”We have a vast majority of them, I’d say 80 to 90 percent,” Schaeffer said.

The power line burials that have occured so far have been done in connection with the expansion and remodeling of the Kemna Auto of Fort Dodge site at First Avenue South and 25th Street.

”Our crews completed a portion of the First Avenue South project to serve the new Kemna Auto buildings,” said Tina Potthoff, a spokeswoman for MidAmerican Energy. ”Additional work will be done along this corridor once easement acquisitions are complete. The entire underground project will be completed in 2014.”

The plan is to bury the utility lines along First Avenue South between Veterans Bridge and a point 850 feet east of 29th Street.

The City Council voted on Oct. 22 to direct MidAmerican Energy to bury the lines and recover its costs with a surcharge added to its customers’ bills.

The project is estimated to cost $1.4 million. The average residential customer in Fort Dodge will see a $4 per month surcharge.

Underground utilities won’t be the only change coming to that stretch of First Avenue South in 2014.

Schaeffer said that a contract for storm sewer and road improvements between Veterans Bridge and 27th Street will likely be awarded next spring, with the work to be done later in 2014. He added that the work will be the second phase of the large East Region Storm Sewer Project intended to improve drainage on that side of the city.

The first phase, which consists of building a storm water retention pond near Veterans Bridge, is underway.

Next year’s effort will include the reconstruction of the intersection of First Avenue South and 25th Street. Right-turn lanes will be added to all four sides of that intersection.

The city received a $300,000 state grant to pay for that job and similiar work at the intersection of First Avenue South and 29th Street, which is scheduled for 2015.