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Sep. 21, 2019 | Saturday
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Hydro box beautification plan leads to safety concerns
A hydro box near Memorial Park. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

A call for art submissions to beautify hydro boxes in NOTL has sparked a conversation about safety procedures, and while the concerns are valid, they may be unwarranted, says NOTL Hydro president Tim Curtis.

An email thread created by dock area resident and retired engineer Ron Simkus raised concerns that using the pad-mounted residential transformers as art installations around town could lead to a dangerous level of comfort around the electrical boxes.

In his email chain, which included Curtis, many local residents, the mayor, members of council, as well as The Lake Report, Simkus said the boxes need to be properly identified as dangerous and off-limits.

“Stay away from the big green box is the right message! These boxes should not be ‘attention grabbers’ or perceived as playground features,” Simkus said.

Curtis noted the concerns in his response, but assured residents that safety is something NOTL Hydro takes “enormously seriously.”

“I would hope that with the art on them that people might be even less likely to sit on them or interfere with them. Ron’s comments are very valid, but that’s something that we have considered and we’re comfortable that we’re not creating any additional risk,” Curtis said in an interview, adding that warning labels will definitely remain visible on the hydro boxes.

The beautification project started with an idea from Curtis, who brought the plan to Lord Mayor Betty Disero. He said she already had a similar idea.

“It was something I brought up in one of our board meetings, and the lord mayor actually had pictures on her phone. It was something she’d obviously been thinking of. We were on the same wavelength, so we just took it from there,” Curtis said.

He welcomed anyone with questions or comments about NOTL Hydro, its services and safety measures to drop in to the office at 8 Henegan Rd., or to call 905-468-4235. He said safety brochures can also be picked up in the office or viewed online at notlhydro.com.

The pilot project to beautify the hydro boxes is a partnership among the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre, Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro and the Communities in Bloom committee.

Three boxes have been selected for the project, at King and Ricardo streets, Memorial Park off King Street, and on Front Street near Victoria Street.

The aim is to find art that fits the community beautification theme, which can include but isn’t limited to gardens and landscapes, and NOTL history and landmarks. The contest is open to artists who live, work or operate in the Niagara region.

Proposals are being accepted until Sept. 18, and the winners will be notified by Sept. 25. Each of the three winners will receive a $500 honorarium.

Proposals can be submitted using the online form. There is a $20 fee to enter.

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