Once again, the American Transmission Co. hired a Dane County Sheriff's deputy to provide security at its open house meeting Monday night on a proposed transmission line.
In the past, the company has held its public meetings at private hotels, where police would often turn away opponents at the door, telling them they were trespassing.
But this time -- because the meeting was held at the Alliant Energy Center, which is owned by Dane County -- the deputy merely watched in silence as ATC's opponents handed out literature and carried signs.
ATC's Mark Williamson has said that the company is not interested in providing a soapbox for the power-line opposition. And the company claims that security is needed because its employees have been physically threatened at past meetings.
Ann Emerson, a Madison resident who lives near the Beltline, which ATC has proposed using as one of the routes for its 345-kilovolt transmission line, showed up to protest. Emerson says she plans to attend ATC's meeting in Stoughton, and she fully expects to be turned away. The meeting is being held at LakeView Church -- private property.
"Why shouldn't we go?" says Emerson. "We're citizens -- this affects us."
ATC says 128 people attended the open house on Monday, where they learned about ATC's two proposed routes (one along the Beltline, the other south through Verona) and could submit written comments.
Earlier this month, the company had complained in a letter to Mayor Dave Cieslewicz that Madison residents typically skip the open houses. ATC has held four meetings in Madison, which have only attracted between 30-100 people.
Monday night's attendance was "much higher than normal for Madison," says Sarah Justus, a spokeswoman for ATC. "It's a great number. We're really happy."
ATC will hold three more hearings this week on the proposed routes for its transmission line:
- Tuesday, Aug. 21, from 4-8 p.m. in Stoughton, at the LakeView Church, 2200 Lincoln Ave.
- Wednesday, Aug. 22, from 4-8 p.m. in Fitchburg, at the Quality Inn, 2969 Cahill Main.
- Thursday, Aug. 23, from 4-8 p.m. in Verona, at the Heights Event Center, 411 Prairie Heights Dr.