AEP to invest $40 million on Belmont projects

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – American Electric Power will invest $40 million in Belmont County and build two new substations within the Bellaire Local School District.

AEP officials told county commissioners recently the substations will be constructed in Mead Township in the county Road 4/Hawthorne Road area. Work to clear the needed sites already has begun.

The needed properties have been purchased, and AEP has received permission from the Ohio Power Siting Commission to begin construction, according to Troy Robb, project manager with AEP.

“We could move on it right away, and we’re actually out there cutting trees now,” he said.

Construction should begin in late May and continue into 2015, according to Robb. Work then will start to connect the stations with existing electric lines, and the stations are expected to be in service by December 2015.

AEP is working with the county engineer’s office and the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department to address traffic and roadway concerns, he said.

Paul Prater, community affairs manager for AEP, said the company’s need to build the substations is “reliability related.”

“It will strengthen the grid not just here in Belmont County, but in the eastern part of Ohio.” he said. “This is one of the things AEP is doing to strengthen our footprint, not just in Ohio, but across the United States.”

Commission President Matt Coffland said the substations lie within the Bellaire Local School District and that the financially challenged district will benefit.

Residents in the district have defeated seven school levies there in the past four years, and the school district has placed on the May 6 ballot another request seeking an additional 5.91 mills for five years for the purpose of providing for the emergency requirements of the district. Bellaire Local Schools Superintendent Tony Scott did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Prater said it isn’t likely AEP would begin paying tax on the site until 2016, and that the school district won’t see any revenue from the project until at least 2017.

“But it’s not going anyplace, and that’s revenue down the road for the school system, the county and the township, and it’s not something that’s going to pick up and leave,” he said.