HULL — Town Meeting this week shot down plans to bury the overhead electrical wires along Nantasket Avenue in the block near Nantasket Beach that’s known locally as “Surfside.”
The town has targeted the area for development, hoping to lure business to a strip that includes vacant buildings as well as restaurants, shops, and a hotel.
The proposal to borrow $800,000 to build underground conduits for the wires needed a two-thirds margin and failed on a vote of 99 in favor to 92 against.
Removing the wires from poles and placing them below ground would have cost about another $1.2 million, officials said. Town Meeting, on a voice vote, also rejected a motion to borrow the entire amount.
The work was intended to complement the $1.9 million in state money being spent to upgrade the roadway, sidewalks, and landscaping in the area of Nantasket Avenue from Bay to Water streets, according to Town Manager Philip Lemnios.
The revitalization work will not be affected and is expected to begin this month and continue over two years, with a hiatus during the summers, he said.
Proponents of the underground wires said getting rid of ugly poles would make the area more attractive to new business — a big goal for a town hoping to beef up its anemic commercial tax base.
“We’re competing with the Hingham Shipyard, with Hingham Square, and Cohasset Village,” said former selectman Dennis Blackall. “We have to make it nicer.”
“It’s an investment in economic development,” said Robert Fultz, the town’s director of planning and community development, who wrote the proposal.
Opponents argued that the town had far more pressing needs and could not afford to spend $800,000 on a cosmetic fix.
“Town Hall is a mess, the police station is a mess, Samoset [Avenue] needs work, some fire hydrants don’t work,” said Jay Polito, who spoke for the minority of the Advisory Board that opposed the project. “We just feel with this list of needs, the money is better spent elsewhere.”
The elected commissioners of the Hull Light Board voted unanimously to oppose the project, said chairman Patrick Cannon, who is also Hull’s wiring inspector.
Light plant manager Richard Miller said underground wires would be more difficult to maintain because of flooding issues. “Overhead [wiring] may not be as pretty, but it’s more reliable,” he said.