The power lines finally come down between the two towns

“That was really Fred’s thing”

Nearly five years ago a group of homeowners north of town asked the local electric company to move a handful of power poles on their property. Today, the poles aren’t only moving—they’re disappearing entirely.



Gunnison County Electric Association (GCEA) workers began taking down the decades-old power lines last week. At press time, the cable itself was totally gone, and the poles were gradually being dug out of the ground.
Granted, it took almost four years to get an underground cable installed between the two towns, and another winter on top of that before the old equipment could be removed.
But the project required the cooperation of numerous homeowners, government figures, and public services. The total cost was nearly a million dollars. And it went well beyond the initial expectations of the homeowners, who simply wanted a couple of power poles moved.
The entire stretch of power lines between the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte is being removed. The new underground cable not only provides electricity, it also boasts a new broadband Internet connection and a conduit to eventually house a high-speed fiber-optic data line.
And most of those involved will likely point to the late Fred Field, a former Gunnison county commissioner, as the driving force behind the project.
GCEA chief executive officer Mike Wells says, “Fred Field, bless his heart, he was kind of the unpaid representative that really pushed this through.”
Gunnison County originally denied the proposal in late 2004, but Field offered to act as a facilitator for the project and to find funding.
By 2007 he had secured over $700,000 in pledges toward the estimated $850,000 project. That cost later escalated to above $900,000 with the rising price of materials.
Gunnison County donated $100,000, the town of Crested Butte donated $50,000, Mt. Crested Butte gave $20,000, Gunnison County Electric Association donated over $100,000, and Time Warner Cable pitched in the same amount. Local landowners and investors secured the rest.
Gunnison county commissioner Paula Swenson says it’s great to see the project coming to an end. She visited the area this past weekend during a trip out to Gothic. “It’s such a different look for that
corridor. It’s a nice addition—or deletion, I guess,” Swenson says.
“This was really Fred’s thing. After Hap and I were elected, Fred continued on to ensure that this project happened,” Swenson says.
Foothills of Crested Butte proponents Cliff Goss and Kent Hill were big financial contributors to the project. “We’re tickled to see them come down, and we were excited to be able to help.” Goss says.
“That’s Fred Field’s project. Really, he’s the one that should get all the credit,” Goss adds.
Wells says, “I have to say there was really a lot of cooperation and participation from a lot of different players. I appreciate their monetary support and their overall support in getting this accomplished.”
GCEA completed the installation of the underground cable and powered down the old lines last fall. But due to the impending winter the electric company waited until this spring to begin removing the lines.
In any case, Wells says it was a nice precaution to have the old lines still hanging if there happened to be a problem with the new underground cable.
“I think it’s going to be good for the valley and the corridor between Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. In a lot of people’s eyes it’s going to look better,” Wells says.
Wells says the electric wire, which is aluminum-based, will be recycled. There’s not much use for the aging power poles. The poles are only expected to last 30 to 35 years he says, and those poles are already more than two decades old. He says the poles might be offered to association members, but their ultimate fate really isn’t known yet.

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