YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A proposal by FirstEnergy to run power lines through downtown Youngstown’s new entertainment district brought out about 100 people in protest Wednesday afternoon. Many of the speeches given were passionate, sometimes angry, all in an effort to get FirstEnergy to change its plans.
The sign at Wednesday’s public meeting at the Covelli Centre summed up the room’s feeling — “right project, wrong location.”
“You want to come in here and take a crap on our investment,” said 1st Ward councilman Julius Oliver.
Oliver was referring to FirstEnergy’s plan to run high tension power lines behind the new Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre and next to the Covelli Centre. Pictures showed how the power lines would look.
“Quite frankly, it was a slap in the face to all of us. Oh, we see your investment. Oh, we see you’re having a good time, this is beautiful. Oh, we’re going to rip this up and put these ugly power lines right through here,” Oliver said.
“I’m telling you right now, if they put these ugly power lines, it’s going to be devastating to our business,” said JAC Management President Eric Ryan.
JAC Management runs both the Covelli Centre and the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre.
“The artists’ compound is going to be under high-tension power lines. I mean, what are we talking about? It’s not even close. I don’t care what it cost, bury it,” Ryan said.
“These are the things that will impede our access to progress on our riverfront. They will impede access for my business,” said Youngstown Flea owner Derrick McDowell.
Eventually, the proposed power lines would run into the East Side, onto the property of the former Sacred Heart Church and into Lincoln Park.
“They want to stop our neighborhood development for the sake of power poles that they have other options to do,” said Father Kevin Peters, pastor at St. Angela Merici Parish.
“So it’s not our job to tell them where it’s going to be, let them figure it out. Let them come back to us with a process and do it. But we need to make our voices heard in unison that this is not an option,” said Andrew Resnick, of Canfield.
If someone from FirstEnergy was at Wednesday’s meeting, they didn’t speak or make their presence known.
In a January interview, a FirstEnergy spokesperson said the power lines are needed “to make sure there’s a safe, reliable power grid” and they’re not looking to put them underground.
The final decision rests with the Ohio Power Siting Board, which has given no indication on when it’ll vote.