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Next time, ask the neighbors

Still, Pacific Power did everything it could to hide its planned substation

The people behind planning for a new power substation in east Medford might reasonably ask what more they could have done to make the project palatable: They found a site obscured by a knoll, they designed the substation so it would be low to the ground and they hired a landscaper to hide it with trees.

They're aware, of course, that homeowners don't like to look out their windows and see substations.

We have only this suggestion: that planners involve neighbors earlier next time.

Pacific Power hopes to start building the &

36;4 million substation, proposed for the flanks of Roxy Ann Peak, by September. It hopes to take the plan to residents at a meeting Monday and then hold one more neighborhood meeting before construction starts.

But substations aren't often easily sold to the people who will live near them. Some worry about the potential health effects of all that electricity nearby, and no one particularly wants to look at one. Many of the people who live on the sides of Roxy Ann bought their homes specifically for the view.

Unknown to them, substation planning has been in the works for a year and a half. The power company developed a list of 10 possible sites in east Medford, where power use is surging, and with the involvement of a number of city staffers winnowed it to one. Pacific Power officials are now certain the chosen site is best.

— The company designed the structure, figured costs and hired landscapers to help disguise the substation. Much time has gone into this.

What's right with this process is that Pacific Power appears to have worked hard to find a suitable, unobtrusive site for the substation. Officials say they don't think it will be visible at all from the Eagle Trace subdivision, the closest homes. And they make a compelling case that the substation is needed in the area.

What's wrong here is that neighbors should have a say in all parts of a process like this, no matter how they're likely to handle the news and no matter the likely outcome.

Government officials should share information about big projects early in the planning stages, when neighbors can still have an effect and before they perceive that most of the deal has been done without them. That's their job.

And who knows? Roxy Ann neighbors may decide that this substation, shielded as it is and capable of making their power supply more stable, is just fine with them.

Next time around, though, they should have the opportunity to say so earlier.

Be careful out there

It's a sure sign that summer weather is here, even if summer offically isn't: Open burning will be prohibited on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry beginning Friday.

The reason? Friday is the first day of fire season in Jackson and Josephine counties. The woods are drying up and this year's warm spring has fire officials anticipating a busier time than usual fighting fires.

The open burn prohibition includes all private, county, state and Bureau of Land Management Land. Some local fire departments may allow barrel burning through June 30 ' check with them for permit requirements. On July 1, all outdoor burning will be prohibited.

Most of all, use extreme caution in the outdoors from now until the fall rains, and know the fire restrictions. No one wants to be responsible for touching off a wildfire.