Council OKs utility map project


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Elizabeth City City Council voted unanimously last week to spend $60,000 mapping the city’s electrical infrastructure, a reversal from two weeks ago when councilors deadlocked on the project and the mayor declined to break the tie.

Councilors voted 8-0 to hire Davey Resource Group to start a pilot project for mapping the city’s electrical poles and the equipment and lines attached to them. Following the council meeting, City Manager Rich Olson said the company likely will start its work later this month.

The pilot project is a precursor to Davey inventorying all of the city’s electrical poles, numbering 7,645, according to city staff. That will cost the city roughly another $175,000 — a major cost that made Councilor Johnnie Walton skeptical of the project last month.

Walton argued the city should do the work in-house. Olson disagreed, telling council the work requires an electrical background, but will be too time-consuming for the city’s linemen to perform before the city looks to implement a smart grid system. That project could be many months away, however.

With two councilors absent and Councilors Darius Horton and Gabriel Adkins backing Walton’s position, councilors deadlocked 3-3 on whether to approve the project. Mayor Bettie Parker could have broken the tie, but chose not to.

Asked what changed, Olson said Ashley Boyd, a Davey employee and Elizabeth City resident, met with Walton and other councilors last week to answer questions about the project.

In an interview, Walton said Boyd provided details and clearer understanding of the project. He also agreed it would be time-consuming for city employees.

The debate over the Davey contract sparked a difference of opinion between Parker and City Attorney Bill Morgan, who said he believed state law required Parker to vote. A University of North Carolina School of Government professor, Frayda Bluestein, told The Daily Advance afterward that she believed Parker was correct that she didn’t have to vote.

During last week’s council meeting, Morgan said he accepted Bluestein’s opinion. Another UNC professor had given him a different opinion, he said.