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Gurnee district 56 officials say ComEd charging triple to relocate utility poles

Saddled with the cost of relocating electric utility lines in the way of a new school project, Gurnee District 56 officials say they have little choice but to pay what appears to be three times what the work actually costs.

ComEd is charging the district $300 per man hour to relocate at least eight utility poles that were in the way of a road improvement associated with construction of the  new Prairie Trail School. The school is being built on Wadsworth Road between Delaney and Green Bay roads in Wadsworth.

Work on the project is scheduled to begin April 2 and with a mid May completion, a ComEd spokesowman said.

District 56 Superintendent John Hutton said he can’t understand why the project shouldn’t go out to bid. He said he has talked to contractors who work for ComEd and charge $100 per man hour for the same work.

“They are making a profit out of the taxpayers, which is a hard position to defend,” said Hutton, who estimated that total project cost will approach $280,000. He said ComEd has essentially assumed a “take it or leave it position.”

Because District 56 has requested a service beyond what is standard, the Illinois Public Utilities Act allows ComEd to require District 56 to pay costs associated with the work, said ComEd spokewoman Arlana Johnson.

“The cost is reasonable due to the type of project and its scope,” Johnson said.

ComEd does not charge to move utility lines on road improvement projects if they are initiated by the public entity that has jurisdiction over the roadway. In this case, the county had no plans to improve Wadsworth Road where the school is under construction, Johnson said.

“The scheduled project for the Gurnee school district is a new service project for a single customer,” Johnson said. “It is not a general road improvement that benefits the general public. “

Hutton said ComEd officials suggested that he take the matter to the Illinois Commerce Commission.

“We’ve already started with that,” Hutton said. “I’m just hoping someone will stand up and say, ‘This is ridiculous.’”

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