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CoH loses legal battle against Belco

Interpretation rejected: Chief Justice Narinder Hargun (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Corporation of Hamilton has lost a legal bid to get power firm Belco to pay to move electricity lines on a city street underground.

The corporation argued in the Supreme Court that a 2012 agreement required Belco to move “apparatus” at no cost to the city and should pay for the work on Union Street.

Belco insisted that the corporation’s request would “fundamentally alter the nature of the power supply to Union Street” and was not covered by the agreement.

Chief Justice Narinder Hargun found the agreement only required that Belco relocate elements of its system if the corporation needed to redesign its road layouts in the city.

Mr Justice Hargun ruled in a judgment released last Friday that if the court interpreted the agreement the way the corporation wanted, Belco would be liable to pay for the relocation of lines at the corporation’s request.

He added that 80 per cent of the city’s power lines were already underground, but under the corporation’s interpretation, the municipality could order Belco to move the entire system above ground if it wanted.

Mr Justice Hargun wrote: “This would be a wholly unexpected and uncommercial result and is a strong indicator that this could not be the intention of the parties.

“This is in circumstances where the corporation receives an annual fee for allowing Belco to erect its network on the corporation’s land.

“Accordingly, I reject the interpretation contended for by the corporation on the basis that it produces wholly uncommercial results.”

He added that the 2012 agreement was unenforceable as it was an “agreement to agree”.

The court heard the dispute arose after the corporation decided to make improvements on Union Street.

The work included moving overhead power lines under the roadway.

Belco said it would go through with the project on the condition that the corporation contribute $26,020 to the costs.

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