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Growing concerns over electrical pole maintenance

Eversource told FOX61 the fix is safe and temporary and that state regulations prohibit crews from touching wires that aren’t theirs.

ESSEX, Conn. — Eversource has filed for a dramatic rate increase, but that isn’t the only customer complaint it is facing. One customer has complained that the company is neglecting routine maintenance. But the electric utility is pushing back, saying it is doing it all by the book.

There are more than 700,000 of them across the state and you drive past them every day. Usually, without paying any attention. We’re talking about utility poles and when you take a closer look what you see may surprise you. “I feel as a customer that we are not listened to,” said Lon Seidman.

Seidman, a resident of Ivoryton, works from home. So, when the power goes out it affects his livelihood. 

“In this town in particular we’ve had horrible reliability of the electric grid,” he explained.

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So when an Eversource-owned utility pole caught fire the other night, Lon took a closer look at the fix the company made. 

“There doesn’t seem to be coordination where something like this happens,” remarked Seidman.

Eversource put in a new pole, but because it doesn’t own the cable and internet wires attached to the old one, rather than remove the old pole completely, a crew cut it and tethered the two poles together using a rope. 

“It is a common practice. The crew did what they are required to do,” explained Mitch Gross, an Eversource spokesperson.

Despite the potential for high winds and power outages Wednesday, Eversource told FOX61 the fix is safe and temporary and that state regulations prohibit crews from touching wires that aren’t theirs.

“We have contacted the other companies who are on that pole to let them know that this took place. It’s up to them to get out there as quickly as they can,” explained Gross.

The complaints don’t end there, walking the neighborhood, FOX61 found damaged and cracked power poles hit by cars, poles that were bolted and bracketed, and some old abandoned poles and poles that are strapped and braced. There are even unsightly duplicate double and triple poles. 

“It’s a huge job but we understand the need to maintain the system,” said Gross. “The crews are well trained. They understand how to examine the poles to see what kind of shape they are in.”

Each utility pole should have a few silver tags. One tells you who owns the pole, the others tell you the last time it was inspected. Lon reached out to PURA, the state regulatory agency for utility providers. It told him, ”The process for completing the work…allows a degree of autonomy to the pole owners.”

“I don’t care whose responsibility it is. All of these utilities are using public and private rights of ways to essentially profit from these wires that they put up and it’s in their collective interest to serve the public good,” said Seidman.

In the context of recent rate hikes, Eversource reminds you it doesn’t profit off of supply charges but it does turn a profit on delivery fees. A portion of those is reinvested into the grid. 

“We reinvest tens of millions of dollars every year into our system to make it stronger, more reliable, and resilient. Yes, pole inspections are part of that along with tee trimming and pole replacement,” said Gross.

Eversource told us it has a software system in place to communicate these issues to other utility companies. Frontier was in Ivoryton on Tuesday laying fiber optic internet cable, but its crews still have not touched the pole that is affixed together by a rope.

If you see a pole in your neighborhood that you think is unsafe, take a picture, note the location, the number, and the owner, and send it to PURA. 

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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