Since 2014 the Marion County Commission has opposed the Mark Twain Transmission Project. It's stance did not waiver Monday when it rejected the request of Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois (ATXI) to cross county roads or use county roads during the course of the project.

Since 2014 the Marion County Commission has opposed the Mark Twain Transmission Project. It’s stance did not waiver Monday when it rejected the request of Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois (ATXI) to cross county roads or use county roads during the course of the project.

With Eastern District Commissioner Larry Welch absent, the decision fell to Lyndon Bode, presiding commissioner, and Randy Spratt, retiring Western District commissioner. While Bode offered to postpone the vote until all three commissioners were present, ATXI reps in attendance did not object to the matter going to a vote Monday.

As it turned out, Welch’s vote wouldn’t have changed the outcome as both Spratt and Bode were in agreement to reject ATXI’s request. The commissioners’ decision prompted a standing ovation from the approximately 40 Northeast Missouri landowners who turned out for Monday’s meeting, which was moved from the Commission’s meeting room in the Palmyra courthouse to the courtroom in anticipation of a large turnout.

The Mark Twain Transmission Project consists of a 345,000 volt transmission line that runs 100 miles from Palmyra to Kirksville and then north to the Iowa border. 

“We’re disappointed with the result,” said ATXI’s Jim Jontry, project manager, who praised Bode and Spratt for the way they conducted Monday’s meeting. “We’ll see if there’s anything else we can do from here.”

Both Bode and Spratt said their votes were in large part based on constituent input.

“I don’t think during our meeting today anybody spoke in favor from the county,” said Bode, referring to the dozen property owners who gave public testimony Monday. “I’m sure there are people in favor of it, too, but the majority I’ve heard from oppose the project and that’s what we carried through with today.”

“It was a hard decision but I am elected by the people, not by Ameren, so in this case I felt I had to go with this decision,” offered Spratt regarding his vote.

The decision to vote against the project was not easy, agreed the commissioners.

“It is a difficult decision because you want to see progress in your community,” said Spratt. “At the same time I understand the plight of the people. I do not want to see somebody come out and tell me, ‘You will let me have your land. You will let me do this.’”

Spratt suggested that both sides might consider compromising.

“I think that somehow there can be a meeting of the minds. I think that Ameren may have to re-think their position and bend a little and the people may have to do the same thing if we’re going to progress,” he said.

Jontry indicated the process of seeking approval from the other counties will continue in which the project’s 95-mile footprint would fall.

“We do have other counties we need to visit with,” he said, adding that ATXI would “reevaluate our options from here.”

While not brought up by Jontry, a court fight is a definite possibility. In addressing the gathering Bode acknowledged that Marion County would have to abide by a court’s ruling if one found in favor of ATXI.

Despite Marion County’s stated opposition to the project, ATXI was required by the Missouri Public Service Commission to seek the approval of the five counties — Marion, Shelby, Knox, Adair and Schuyler counties — in which the 345,000-volt transmission line project would fall. The PSC voted 5-0 in favor of the Mark Twain Transmission Project in late April.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com