Private Electrical Service

 

NOTE: The following update was provide July 21, 2017 by Dylan Fernandes, State Representative for Falmouth, Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket

All,

As you know, our office has been working with the Attorney General's Office and others for the past several months on the issue of private utility lines and poles. Eversource has been asking the Department of Public Utilities for a rate hike and one of our strategies has been to use that request as a way to raise awareness of private lines/poles and demand that Eversource take them over. Over the past several months, I made this case to the Attorney General's Office and they are filing a three page brief today that calls on the DPU to request that Eversource "accelerate the transfer of ownership" of private lines/poles to the company. 

This is a very good step forward in getting the chief law enforcement agency involved in this issue and we will continue to keep you updated on progress. 

Please feel free to forward this information to anyone you know who is affected by private utility lines/poles. Enjoy your weekend!

Best,

Dylan

Dylan Fernandes, State Representative for Falmouth, Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket

dylan.fernandes@mahouse.gov, 617-722-2430


NOTE: The following information has been provided to the CIA. This issue will be discussed at the August 5 AGM:

Many homeowners living in Massachusetts are unaware that the power lines delivering their electricity are privately owned rather than owned by Eversource. As such, when the power line breaks, Eversource is obligated to determine where the break has occurred. If the break is on a private line they will respond with “ who is your electrician?”. Eversource owns the transformers, however, the lines are privately owned and the homeowners’ responsibility. Each break may cost an average of $5000 to $10000 for an underground repair. The responsibility for repair/ replacement is the homeowners. The crisis begins when the homeowners try to organize a repair/replacement with all the affected homeowners on the line without a pre- existing structure in which to coordinate efforts!

Many of these power lines are aging out. They were constructed 30-50 years ago. The average lifespan for an older trenched line (underground) is about 30 years. Many of these older lines were buried without conduit. Chappy was previously like the wild west! Often the lines were placed without regard to easements or boundaries. Therefore a straight replacement of an extended line becomes impossible if people don’t work together. Our line which services 21+ homes on Chappaquiddick is over 40 years old and has suffered 3 breaks. All of the homeowners on our line were completely unaware of this issue at that time. Subsequently, we formed a “not for profit Power Line Association” to handle repairs as well as save for the contingency of maintenance and replacement. We have shared our model free of charge with multiple communities on MV suffering with the same problem.

The problem with organizing is that most homeowners are unaware there is a problem until a break occurs. Realtors were unaware of this issue in the past. Those of us who purchased our homes decades ago had no idea of the issue. Eversource claims notifications have been sent out in the past, but I have never spoken to anyone who ever received notification. The Attorney General’s office has noted this irregularity as well. We believe a realtor is obligated to explain who owns the power line and is legally responsible to do so. Private ownership of an older line may put both the buyer or seller at risk for thousands of dollars or make the house potentially unsellable.

.Recently we replaced our 1/2 mile line at a cost of almost $200,000. There are many other communities on Chappy that are doing so currently or have done so in the past and many more that will be doing so over the next few years out of necessity. We are in touch with several other communities on Martha’s Vineyard that have faced the same issues of repair and replacement.

To gauge the extent of the problem on MV please refer to the included map on “MV Private Roads”. It is difficult to obtain information from Eversource. Living on a private road does not exactly correlate with being on a privately own electrical service, but it does increase the chances.

Eversource has little interest in maintaining an aging infrastructure or in replacing/owning the privately owned electric grid particularly when they can pass that cost completely to the community.

Eversource’s cost for installation is at least 3 x more expensive than retrenching privately. In fairness, it does involve more construction detail with line duplication etc. Eversource generally uses the replacement paradigm of a “Million Dollars a Mile” if they do the work.

They generally do not advertise their replacement as an option, preferring private ownership as better for their overhead and business model. They have expressed little interest in pursuing ownership of our line whether or not we bring the line up to their standards.

However, they still charge full price for delivery despite using privately owned lines to distribute their product.

The issue is not unique to Martha’s Vineyard but, applicable to anywhere in the Commonwealth where private developers constructed the electric grid. Dylan Fernades, our state rep, noted there were 10,000 private poles in the commonwealth. The number of consumers per pole is unknown but this probably represents several hundred thousand homes.

We have currently been working with our State Rep Dylan Fernandez and our State Senator Julian Cyr. Refer to the included email chain from Rep Fernandes.

We are not asking Eversource to retroactively reimburse us for our replacement costs. However, Eversource is using our infrastructure to fulfill their public utility mandate. They still charge full cost to us without compensation for using our infrastructure. We would add that the telephone companies / internet providers must pay Eversource a fee to use the electric poles for conveying their lines.

It is unfair to place the cost of infrastructure to the consumer without some fair compensation model. We would like to see Eversource take on full ownership of our lines or pay a monthly percentage fee for use of the line to deliver their product.

In our case, we chose a retrenchment of our line in certified conduit with an Eversource certified electrical contractor. The line is warrantied for 5 years by the contractor and rated for 50+ years by the manufacturer. Eversource required pre testing of the new line prior to going live. Admittedly, it does not fulfill their mandate for a duplicated circuit though it is unclear if any of Eversource’s older owned lines have that built in capability. Nonetheless, the financial liability for Eversource to assume a new line such as ours is negligible.

As per the email, The AG’s office has submitted a brief to the DPU requesting that Eversource accelerate the transfer of ownership of private lines. How or if this ever occurs is currently in the hands of our legislators/ AG’s office/DPU. Eversource is under some pressure as they have recently requested a 7% rate increase starting this January. It would be a $96 million increase supposedly for infrastructure. We presented our concerns at the DPU forum early this Spring on MV. The AG’s office is against the rate increase.

If the legislative process is ineffective, we have received interest from several legal firms interested in pursuing a class action suit.

What can you do?

  1. Find out if you are on a private line. Call Eversource Energy, Right of Way Dept. Eversource - Jessica Elder - 508-790-9022.
  2.  If you are on a private line, Send letter to Eversource requesting them to take over your line. It will most likely be rejected but Rep Fernandez requested that we formally do so. Send to Eversource Energy, Attn: B Lord, 247 Station Drive SW330, Westwood, Ma 02090
  3. Each homeowner on a private electrical service should email to Rep Dylan Fernandes/ Kayla Moore. The more people aware, the greater the momentum for change. dylan1fernandes@gmail.com kaylea.moore@mahouse.gov

Dennis Goldin

Rogers Road Power Line

Tick Information

Dick Johnson would be happy to meet with people at the community center or wherever if they would like to have a more in-depth discussion or ask questions about ticks.

Feel free to email or call -

  • 508 693-1893
  • rwilcoxjohnson@yahoo.com
  • Alan Van Arsdale – vanarsdale.alan@epa.gov

Cell Service Update

Cell phone service throughout the Vineyard is spotty, as it is on Chappy. 

A Chappy committee and town hall staff have worked to attract proposals from cell service providers since 2011. A proposal was finally received about four months ago and was tentatively accepted by the town. It proposed a cell tower up to 180 feet in height, visible from almost everywhere and on one of three sites—any of which were close to many homes. But the construction would be dependent upon at least one carrier committing to a lease. No carrier had committed or come here to scope it out. 

Some members of the Chappy Community urged the Selectmen to award this contract. They felt that as a practical matter we should simply take what was available. Word got out and 90 letters in opposition were sent to the Selectmen, compared to ten in favor. The Selectmen convened a committee of five and gave them July and August to determine whether or not there were realistic alternatives. 

The committee has had weekly meetings. Last Friday they spent five hours on Chappy with Verizon’s Director of Operations for New England. Verizon is the country’s largest service provider. During this meeting he agreed to find the funds to put together a minimally intrusive DAS (distributed Antenna System that uses existing power line poles) plan for Chappy that will be available for implementation as soon as his annual budget can cover this. His annual budget is upwards of $350 million. It answers the Selectmen’s question as to whether or not any option other than a tower might be available. 

Meanwhile a number of houses on Chappy have found that their cell service can be significantly improves with a $200 device called a Zboost. This has worked in 5 of 7 situations that I know of. If your house has some reception now, most likely a Zboost device will improve it. The committee will continue to develop its report for the Selectmen. We will try to keep the CIA membership aware of what happens.

Status of Comcast Chappy Installation

Comcast is preparing to begin construction on Chappy in order to connect those who have subscribed. They expect completion by June 1, 2016, but may finish sooner. 

Their representatives will be contacting the Chappy households that signed on. Each subscriber will be able to choose from many options. Fast internet service, television and a land line phone will cost about $100 less per month than current costs. The phone will be better and the internet faster.

Comcast originally required Chappy to have 280 subscribers, each paying $2139 and agreeing to 2 year contracts. In total, the town agreed to fund about $150,000. Comcast required a total contribution of $750,000. Anticipating the need for a 501C3 to accept deductible donations to subsidize the Comcast effort, the Chappaquiddick Community Fund was set up and it received 501C3 tax deductible status in May 2014.

In December 2014 being 91 short of 280, Comcast agreed to go ahead if we paid them $195,000 within one month. Twenty seven members of our community responded to an e-mail appeal with gifts ranging from $500 to $20,000. Despite the Edgartown Post Office’s performance that day, $195,000 was delivered one hour before the deadline.

Pam Dolby, the Town Manager, left her office at Town Hall, drove to the Post Office to retrieve the lost (and then found) guaranteed next day delivery priority envelope and drove it to the Edgartown National Bank which was Comcast’s agent throughout this process. Pam had worked on this a little bit every day for the previous year.

This was the finale to a five year marathon and was a partnership effort between Edgartown and the people of Chappaquiddick. This would never have happened without the extraordinary efforts of Dennis Goldin with important help along the way from Roger Becker, Jonathan Cobb, Woody Filley, Dick Chasin, Pam Statile, and Bob O’Rourke. Collectively these seven spent hundreds of hours to make this happen. They truly deserve a round of applause.