Residents of Salt Lake County's west side are off the hook as far as paying for burial of high-voltage power lines.

Wednesday, the Salt Lake County Commission decided to exclude all areas west of I-15 in a proposed "county service area" that would be formed to raise money to bury power lines. Various residents, especially those living next to a proposed Hammer-Butlerville high-voltage line along Fort Union Boulevard and adjacent streets, had objected to above-ground power lines together with their supporting 100-foot steel poles going in next to their homes.The service area would be funded with an additional property tax.

When the Hammer-Butlerville line was being discussed last fall and winter, the County Commission received an earful from residents who were very keen to get the line buried. But in contrast to those east-side residents, in two public hearings on the proposed county service area held last week, numerous west-side residents said they were fine with above-ground power lines, thank you, and didn't want to pay any more in taxes to have them buried.

One resident said he had a large steel supporting pole right next to his house, and he didn't care.

Cynics take note: Occasionally, at least, government actually listens to its citizens.

"It was abundantly clear that citizens on the west side weren't interested in having a service area," Commission Chairman Brent Overson said.

"I think this is a terrific move and probably a very good example of the commission listening to public input," Commissioner Randy Horiuchi added.

Most of the proposed line burials are on the east side. Although exact figures were not immediately available, commission chief of staff David Marshall said "certainly the preponderance" of lines were on the east side.

"There are really very, very few on the west side," he said.

In a countywide service area, the maximum additional annual tax levied on an average home (currently $168,000) would have been $38. With the area now being cut in half, the maximum additional tax will be $25, to be in effect for 30 years.

The original proposal would have raised about $100 million over the life of the district. That amount will be decreased substantially with the modified area, though the cost will also be less with fewer lines.

Wednesday, the commission also formed a study committee to determine burial of which lines should take priority.

The commission's action formally kicked off the process of putting the measure on the ballot. East-side residents of the unincorporated county (city residents will not be affected) will vote Nov. 3 on whether they want the service area.

If the county receives sufficient protest from residents, it is required to abandon the idea, even before the vote. A sufficient protest comprises a property owners' petition of at least 25 percent of the affected area and 15 percent of the assessed valuation.