Monterey Town Council Negotiates With Shenandoah Valley Electric Coop At April Council Meeting
Monterey, VA – Monterey council negotiated with Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) during Thursday evening’s council meeting. Council began negotiations on a franchise agreement that would give SVEC the exclusive right to sell electricity in the town for the next 40 years.
Town attorney Melissa Ann Dowd said she was troubled by language in the draft agreement giving the electric company other exclusive rights.
“The main thing that I have trouble with is that it also gives you the exclusive right to put up poles for fiber-optic cable, telephone lines and appliances,” she said.
“You’ve got the right to sell data and video services,” Dowd added. “Our telephone company does that.”
SVEC representative John Sisler tells council the electric company needs the right to transmit data over electric lines for present and emerging technology.
“We have communications that we use, basically, for ourselves,” he said. “We communicate to all of our meters, every day now.”
“With smart grid technology and other things coming about, at some point, your meter could communicate with your refrigerator and tell the refrigerator not to go into defrost mode.”
Sisler agreed to modify the agreement to avoid infringement of telephone company rights.
Mayor Janice Warner said she nixed a clause allowing tower construction.
“I already had called and talked to her about the towers,” she said. “So, they were willing to take that out, because we don’t allow towers in the Town of Monterey.”
On council request, Sisler agreed to further modifications, giving the town more oversight of telephone pole and underground conduit locations. Warner said several residents complained about the electric company’s recent tree-trimming, which the mayor described as extreme.
“In our town, people were really upset about it,” she said. “I had a lot of telephone calls about it – was there anything that we could do?”
Councilmember Don Dowdy concurred.
“They trimmed my trees – it was horrible,” he said. “I didn’t think it would ever come back out, but it did.”
Sisler says the company has rules it must follow.
“There are tree trimming guidelines,” he said. “We have to meet those guidelines, not only from the standpoint of electrically being safe and not just because it costs us money, but because we don’t want to have trees growing into lines, where you can actually electrify a tree.”
The representative said heavier cutting was necessary because of his previous employer’s delinquency.
“I worked for Allegheny Power and I’ll confess,” he said. “We didn’t do a whole lot of trimming.”
“When we go through the first go-around, it’s going to look a whole lot more severe, than it has been, when you haven’t done any tree trimming for 10 years,” Sisler added.
Sisler said the only way the company could vary from tree trimming guidelines is to remove a tree completely, which the company will do if a landowners requests. Dowd said she would review the guidelines and recommend language in the franchise agreement to protect landowners. The town and the electric company have until the end of the year to finalize the agreement.
The Mayor informed Council that part-time Monterey resident Caroline Aldridge had offered to assist with redrafting the town charter. Warner said Aldridge is a former state employee with experience in drafting town charters. The mayor said she would confer with Aldridge this month and report to council during its May 3 meeting.
Warner informed council that four stone welcome signs had been erected at town limits on routes 220 and 250.
In other business, Monterey council:
– approved a transfer of $8,500 from the sewer replacement fund to the general fund to cover a bill for effluent water testing;
-and approved a $50 expenditure for a one-quarter page ad in the Fiddler’s Convention program.
The next regular Monterey council meeting is scheduled for May 3.