By PETER H. MILLIKEN
The Ohio Edison Co. has sued a Boardman couple, saying their in-ground swimming pool interferes with safe and reliable electricity delivery over the company’s 69,000-volt overhead transmission lines.
The electric utility sued Joseph C. and Marsha A. Bettura of Mayflower Drive on Monday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, saying the pool installation violates the company’s 1949 easement for electric transmission over the couple’s property.
“The pool has been there 21 years, and now they’re bringing this up,” Joseph Bettura said.
“Why now?” Bettura asked.
“We periodically review our easements, and, if we detect a potential safety violation, we need to take steps to rectify that situation,” answered Mark Durbin, manager of energy delivery communications for First Energy Corp., parent of Ohio Edison.
“We’re seeking recovery of the costs associated with moving an electric line to remedy a safety-code violation that is the result of the defendants having a pool in our easement,” Durbin added.
The company said its easement gives it the right to clear trees, bushes and other obstructions within 50 feet of the center of the right of way granted by the easement.
The pool violates the easement and the National Electrical Safety Code because it is only about 9.9 feet from the center of the transmission lines, the lawsuit said.
Because the pool could not be readily moved, the electric utility incurred unspecified costs of re-framing the transmission poles to raise the wires to a safer height above the pool, the suit said.
The suit seeks recovery of those costs and an injunction barring the Betturas from enlarging their pool or placing any new items in the right of way such as flagpoles, storage sheds, decks, wells or septic systems.
Bettura acknowledged that the 16-by-34-foot pool, which ranges from 3 to 8 feet deep, is at least partly within Ohio Edison’s easement.
He said, however, he did not pay the $7,100 bill the utility sent him after raising its lines because he had earlier signed an encroachment agreement saying he owes the utility only $1.
“We felt the issue had been resolved based on their raising the lines and the encroachment agreement,” Bettura said. “It’s like, ‘Here comes big brother,’” Bettura said of the utility’s lawsuit.
“We disagree with the defendant’s interpretation of that encroachment agreement” as it pertains to the $1 fee, Durbin said.
Under the agreement, Bettura said he agreed to increase his liability insurance from $500,000 to $1 million, to refrain from placing any new items in the easement without Ohio Edison’s permission, and to absolve Ohio Edison of any liability issues concerning the safe and reliable delivery of electricity.
Initially, Ohio Edison had demanded in 2011 that the Betturas either fill in the pool or pay $8,200 to raise the high-voltage transmission lines, Bettura recalled.
A three-man utility crew took three hours to raise the lines from 221⁄2 feet to 24 feet above the water as required by the electrical code, Bettura recalled.
The lawsuit is assigned to Judge John M. Durkin.