Dan Winslow Takes on the Utilities

Republican Rep. Dan Winslow has managed to make a strong mark in his tenure as a State Representative, filing some pretty good legislation and utilizing strong social media skills to make sure his point of view is known. Although I don’t know Rep. Winslow I do believe that he is stirring the legislative pot in a good way, showing a willingness to criticize both Democrats and Republicans as he puts forward ideas that may make Legislative leadership from both sides of the aisle uncomfortable. And he sure does have some pretty good media skills.

Winslow is now promoting some common sense legislation to give consumers rebates on their bills when utilities leave them without service. Utilities have been under some pressure due to their sub-standard performance during the last few years. That performance has often led residents to be without power for days on end, with crews called in from far off locales to tend to the outages. The systemic inefficiency has caused the utilities to be on the receiving end of some real political heat and public outrage. Winslow is ahead of the curve on this one, and is shining a light into an area that quite frankly needs review. The Eagle Tribune wrote a recent editorial, after an investigative piece, that took the utilities to task. Winslow has also come up with a model local by-law that would force utilities to do better preventative maintenance on trees that may impact power lines. I have attached that legislation here. Good job by Rep. Winslow! The local ordinance is something that localities should look at, as it brings some common sense to the issue of utilities doing this maintenance up front. Below is the Winslow model local by-law.

Draft Bylaw To Prevent Loss of Electrical Service

To See Whether The Town Will Amend The Town Bylaw To Add The Following New Section: Article XX. Tree and Branch Maintenance in Public Rights of Way.

Section 1. Condition for Use of Public Rights of Way.
It shall be a condition of any easement, license or permission granted by the town for use of the public rights of way for purposes of utility lines that such lines shall be kept clear of branches and brush in accordance with this article.

Section 2. Clearance Requirements in Proximity to Utility Lines.
It shall be unlawful for branches or brush to encroach on or over the public right of way in which utility lines are located in violation of the annual vegetation management plan or annual hazard tree removal plan approved by the town pursuant to General Laws chapter 87, section 14 or, if no such plans have been approved, to any distance within 4 feet of either side of such lines or within 8 feet over such lines. The utilities or companies which have such easement, license or permission shall be jointly and severally responsible at their own expense for cutting to trimming any branches or brush which so encroach upon utility lines to comply with this Article, except as otherwise provided in Section 3.

Section 3. Trees Adjacent to Public Rights of Way.
Owners of any trees or brush located on property adjacent to public rights of way shall be deemed to have consented to cutting or trimming of branches and brush that encroach on the public right of way by utility companies in compliance with this article if they have been given at least 14 days written notice of proposed cutting or trimming without objection as provided in this section. Any notice shall include notification that any objection shall be required to be sent to the Board of Selectmen within 7 days or owners shall be deemed to have consented to such cutting and trimming. Any owner who does not consent to cutting or trimming by any utility company in accordance with this bylaw shall instead be subject to the requirements of this bylaw at their own expense. Nothing in this bylaw shall limit the power of tree wardens to trim, cut or remove trees in accordance with General Laws chapter 87, section 5.

Section 4. Preservation of Private Property Rights
Nothing in this Article shall authorize any person or utility company to enter upon or over privately owned property or to remove any tree located on private property. The scope of this Article shall be limited only to branches and brush that encroach on the public right of way.

Section 5. Enforcement
The Board of Selectmen or their designee shall enforce this Article by sending written notice to any utility which has been given an easement, license or permission within a public right of way by stating the street address or location of branches or brush that encroach on the public right of way in violation of this Article and directing that such branches or brush be cut or trimmed within 60 days after such notice. Failure by the utility to comply with this article within 60 days after such notice, or after such additional time as the Board of selectmen may agree in writing, shall be enforced by a civil infraction of $100. Each day and each tree shall constitute a separate violation.

http://www.necn.com/common/thePlatform/web/swf/flvPlayer.swf

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