Kids and Parents Protest 'Say No to SWEPCO'

GARFIELD, AR-- SWEPCO is planning to construct a new high-voltage transmission line, crossing areas of Benton, Carroll, and surrounding counties.

After proposing six different plans, the state approved route 109 back in January. Now SWEPCO is asking the state to reconsider and construct a route that runs through the city of Garfield. Residents in the area aren't happy about it.

Students and parents of Garfield Elementary School held a protest on Saturday. With them, the city's mayor spoke out against SWEPCO's proposed route for a new transmission line.

Mayor Laura Hamilton said, "Overall we feel it's not good for what Arkansas stands for. We are the Natural State and they want to come in and put a 150-foot line through all of our forestation."

Missy Seamster says her ten-year-old son, Duncan, is afraid of what might happen. Seamster said, "It's devastating many people's property and just ruining things. They are high voltage lines. They emit high voltage that make people sick and animals sick and we are very concerned. We feel it's just not needed."

According to plans, the transmission line would run a couple hundred feet behind Garfield Elementary School, but that wasn't a part of the original approved route.

SWEPCO spokesperson, Peter Main, said "We're asking for reconsideration of the route that was selected and hoping that the commission will identify the route that we originally proposed."

The state selected route 109 in January of 2014. That path did not go through the city of Garfield. However, SWEPCO has filed for a rehearing to put route 33 in the plan and that puts the high-voltage line in the school's backyard.

Main said, "We believe the more direct route, our proposed route is the preferred route. It specifically addresses some transmission system overloads that can occur."

Ultimately, the Arkansas Public Service Commission has the final say but until then, the city of Garfield is not backing down.

Seamster said, "We don't understand why they have to do this when they can use existing power lines or other routes."

Mayor Hamilton added, "We are not going to stop here. If we don't win this segment of it then it's going to keep going and we hope to prevail."

The state is expected to make a decision on the route in early June.

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