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Poll: State Rep. Winslow Urges Local Oversight of Utility Line Maintenance

Medfield State Representative Dan Winslow sends model bylaw for town meeting consideration.

Medfield's State Representative, Dan Winslow (R-Norfolk), has sent a model local bylaw to the Massachusetts Municipal Association that, if adopted by local town meetings or city councils, would allow municipalities to require better maintenance of utility lines by utility companies to reduce the risk of extended power outages from tree damage after storms.  

Medfield experienced significant power outages as a result of this past August and last .

"The utilities have spent millions on lobbyists at the State House to block pending legislation which would increase competition or create incentives for better management of our power grid," said Winslow. "But lobbyists have zero influence at a local town meeting or city council hearing. If we cannot rely on the state legislature to fix the problem of unreliable power, we certainly can rely on the people's legislatures of local town meetings."  

Under Winslow's model bylaw, utilities with poles and lines that are located on public property such as the rights of way along streets would be required to clear tree branches and brush from utility lines or face daily fines. The model bylaw provides that tree branches must be trimmed to keep them from growing into or next to power lines.  The model bylaw also incorporates a new state law that allows cities and towns to develop tree maintenance plans in cooperation with utilities to prevent indiscriminate destruction of shade trees and streetscapes.    

"Local communities can require maintenance of trees and brush as a condition for utilities' use of public land," said Winslow. "If adopted by local town meetings or city councils, this model bylaw would empower our communities to fine utilities $100 per day per tree for failure to maintain utility lines. Towns and cities could use that revenue to maintain their rights of way or to offset their municipal electric bills."  

Winslow sent the model tree maintenance bylaw earlier this month to each of the towns he represents: Medfield, Plainville, Wrentham, Millis, Walpole and Norfolk.  

He sent the model bylaw to the Massachusetts Municipal Association Monday, Feb. 27, which consists of the leadership of most communities in Massachusetts, for selectmen to include in the upcoming spring town meeting warrants. The proposal requires the approval of local voters at town meetings or in city councils.

Medfield's town meeting is scheduled for April 30.

So Medfield, we want to know ...

Today's question: Are you in favor of the model local bylaw that would require better maintenance of utility lines by utility companies to reduce the risk of extended power outages from tree damage after storms?

Richard DeSorgher February 27, 2012 at 08:57 PM
I would hope that this new regulation does not mean open season on the town's road-side shade trees. Rather than decimate the trees NStar should begin a long range program of getting into the 21st Century. The stringing of wires on poles through the trees began with the end of the Pony Express in the mid 1800's. Clearly the future is putting the wires underground as many neighboring town centers have done. Medfield by-laws require all new street utility construction to be underground. I would hope the tree trimming is done by people who know what they are doing so our trees are not hacked to death and then have to come down. The look of the community with its tree-lined streets adds to our property values.

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