On Monday the Marion County Commission unanimously approved an assent request from Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois (AXTI) during construction of the Mark Twain Transmission Project.

On Monday the Marion County Commission unanimously approved an assent request from Ameren Transmission Company of Illinois (AXTI) during construction of the Mark Twain Transmission Project.

“A lot of things have changed in a year’s time,” said Lyndon Bode, presiding commissioner of Marion County. “We were here a year ago and voted ‘no’ on the proposed routing. Ameren and Northeast Power have worked good in the past year to basically co-locate the lines, whether it was using Northeast Power’s existing right-of-way lines or Ameren of Missouri’s.

“I feel comfortable (with the project). That’s why we made the motion of assent today.”

“With the commission’s comments today and the work we’ve done to address all the concerns, I feel like we’re moving in the right direction,” said Jim Jontry, project manager for the Mark Twain Transmission Project.

The commission’s assent approval does not bring an immediate end to the lawsuit ATXI filed against the county a year ago, according to the county’s special counsel, D. Keith Henson.

“There is an agreement that we have entered into with ATXI, assuming that the assent is granted by the county commission, dealing with the lawsuit,” he said before the commissioners voted. “The lawsuit basically, as far as claims for damages against this county, will be gone if the assent is granted here today. Part of the lawsuit will remain for a period of time, but only until the PSC (Public Service Commission) has looked at this proposed new route.”

Unlike a year ago, when plenty of negative remarks were heard from property owners in the footprint of the proposed project, nothing negative was offered up by the handful of spectators in the Palmyra courthouse’s courtroom. Kelvin Triplett, whose parents’ property will be impacted, expressed confidence that Northeast Power and ATXI will work with them to reach satisfactory resolutions to the property issues that still linger.

“We have assurances,” he said.

Dick Disselhorst said the new single poles will be easier to farm around.

“It’s a win-win solution,” he said.

On hand to offer support was Douglas Aeilts, CEO at Northeast Power, who provided a “big picture” view of the project.

“Ninety-eight percent of the route on this line, from Palmyra all the way to the Iowa border, is crossing electric co-op territory,” he said. “We’re just wanting to look out for the member consumers of electric co-ops throughout northeast Missouri to make sure they’re being treated fairly. We think this project accomplishes that and we look forward to working with ATXI during construction.”

Northeast Power stands to benefit directly from the project.

“There’s about 60 miles of line that they will be using of Northeast Power right-of-way,” said Aeilts. “We would have to rebuild that line in 10 to 15 years at a cost of about $30 million and that’s $30 million we won’t have to spend. That will benefit all the consumers of northeast Missouri.”

According to Jontry, the project will generate more than $750,000 in tax revenue annually.

While ATXI now has permission to cross county “roads and highways” during the project in Marion and Lewis counties, more work remains to be done.

“Our next steps are to get the remaining assents in the other three counties,” said Jontry, referring to Schuyler, Adair and Knox counties.

Will having two assent agreements in hand help when ATXI visits the other counties?

“I don’t know if I can say,” said Jontry. “I’m just glad to have a couple of approvals. That’s two more than I had yesterday. We’ll work with the other counties to make sure we address all their concerns when we get there. It’s a good feeling to have the approval of somebody.”

In addition to the assent agreements from the remaining three counties, the project must still receive permission from the Missouri Public Service Commission before any construction can start, according to Jontry.

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