ROCKBRIDGE, Ohio — Charles and Melanie Ogle have lived happily off the power grid for 17 years in their solar-powered log home perched on a ridge in the Hocking Hills.
They don’t want or need electric lines, but it seems that a power line is about to be strung outside their house anyway.
The Ogles are fighting a plan by American Electric Power to take some of their land by eminent domain to build an overhead electric line to power a telecommunications tower that the utility is building about 1,500 feet south of their house.
A judge already ruled that the project is a necessity and that the company has the right to take their land. A trial is scheduled to begin today in Hocking County Common Pleas Court to decide the compensation that the company must pay the Ogles for taking their frontage along Donaldson Road, measuring 1,500 feet long by 30 feet wide.
The Ogles rejected AEP’s offer of $4,000. It’s not about the money, the couple said. It’s the principle.
AEP says it needs to build the 350-foot telecommunications tower so its workers can communicate with each other by radio in the hills. Construction has started.
“There are pockets where we have blacked-out communications, and we need to improve that system,” company spokesman Jeff Rennie said.
Building a line underground is more expensive. The cost can run about $750,000 to $800,000 per mile in a simple field and higher in a wooded area, compared with the above-ground cost of about $50,000 per mile, Rennie said.
The Ogles, both 46, say their view has changed considerably since 1991, when they built their 2,000-square-foot log home on 88 acres of land that once belonged to Mrs. Ogle’s grandmother. Back then, the only tower visible from their mailbox belonged to WLGN, the Logan radio station. Now, the Ogles say, on a clear night they can count the blinking red lights of 19 more towers stretched in all directions.
The Ogles, who countersued AEP when the utility sued them for the eminent-domain rights, estimate they have spent nearly $35,000 in legal fees. She works as a secretary in a law office, and he is a foreman at the General Electric glass plant in Logan.
The Ogles built their home themselves using a mule to drag the jack pine logs out of the woods. They planned to get commercial electricity, they said, but balked when AEP quoted a price of $440 a month for the first four years and $220 a month afterward as the billing costs to build a line on the isolated ridge.
Instead, they bought solar panels, which charge the batteries that power their appliances and compact fluorescent light bulbs. Natural gas heats the house and water, and also runs their stove and refrigerator.
“You have control of it in your hands,” Mr. Ogle said. “You’re not at the mercy of AEP.”
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