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?