University on ugly power trip

Congratulations to the University of Kentucky on the stellar financial performance of its medical center. It's doing so well that building the new hospital towers can be accelerated, saving ”tens of millions of dollars“ according to Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs.

Great. That frees up money to bury or reduce the impact of the power lines that will serve the hospital.

The plan to put huge steel poles on Euclid and Woodland avenues is better suited to Hoover Dam than these historic neighborhoods.

UK will bury the lines in front of the hospital but said that burying the power lines in the neighborhoods would cost more than $8 million. That represented about 1.5 percent of the expansion's estimated $525 million cost at the time.

With the added construction in the current phase, the cost has risen to $775 million, meaning that the cost of burying the utility lines would now represent just over 1 percent of project costs.

Although UK had been working on the power route for a year, it didn't come to public attention until early May. Kentucky Utilities, which was working with UK, said the university needed the power by Aug. 1 to avoid delaying the hospital project.

Mayor Jim Newberry, who first learned of the plans in late April, protested that utility poles would not be ”in keeping with our efforts to improve neighborhoods near campus.“ He asked UK to explore alternatives before the city would grant a permit to erect the poles.

Bob Wiseman, university vice president for facilities management, said yesterday that UK hopes to get back with the mayor within a week with plans to reduce the impact on the neighborhoods.

Burying the lines, he said, is not an option.

These neighborhoods provide the entry to the university and are home to many UK students, faculty and staff who link the university to the rest of the community.

UK should make sure the hospital's spectacular success benefits rather than harms them.