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      Huge power poles upset Murrells Inlet residents

      How would you feel if a huge utility pole suddenly showed up in your back yard? That's what happened recently to some Murrells Inlet residents.

      They say they were given no warning about just how big or ugly the power poles would be.

      When Mike Clayton looks out at his back yard these days, he sees two 90-foot tall Santee Cooper towers that went up a couple of weeks ago.

      Clayton said the utility sent residents a letter earlier this year that said there would be some work done on the company's easement behind their homes, but he said residents had no idea the huge rust-colored steel power poles would have this impact on their properties.

      "It's just ugly, devaluation of property, the ability to sell our property," Clayton said. "Hammock Avenue was probably one of the nicest streets in Murrells Inlet. Now it's the talk of the town. Our abilities to sell our homes in the future I think are pretty much nil right now."

      Clayton said he tried contacting Santee Cooper to ask if there were other routes the company could have used for the line, or if the company would help residents recoup their losses in property value, or if the utility would put in landscaping to help hide the towers.

      "They have 20 different divisions, all doing 20 different things and we really cannot get the answers that we want to know," Clayton said. "It's sad that they come in, they do it, they walk away. No information at all."

      One of Clayton's neighbors believes the power poles are much too big for the 50-foot-wide easement.

      "They're outside of their boundaries of what is legal for a transmission line through a residential area," said Ed Brenner.

      A Santee Cooper spokesperson told NewsChannel 15 she couldn't address the legality of the height of the towers, but she said the new 115-kilovolt power lines are badly needed to help the company keep up with the growing needs of the Grand Strand.

      She said the company notified all property owners affected by the lines.

      "Santee Cooper has actually met with some residents in the area who called and had questions. We've also met with homeowners associations and gone down to association meetings to explain what was going to happen," said Nicole Aiello.

      Aiello said the company would be willing to speak to anyone about their concerns for the project. She said because the power poles carry both transmission and distribution lines, fewer poles will be needed.

      Clayton and Brenner say they don't question the need for the project and don't expect the towers to come down. They say they just want better answers.

      "The big boys are trying to walk on the little guys and I think at this time, in this economy, the little guys aren't going to be quiet anymore," Brenner said.

      A press release from Santee Cooper says the 15-mile project from Pawleys Island to Garden City is scheduled to be completed in January, 2012.