BOS - July 12, 2005 - Workshop

Moderator: Suzanne Kane

BOS - July 12, 2005 - Workshop

Postby Suzanne Kane » Wed Oct 19, 2005 2:21 pm

Board of Selectmen
July 12, 2005

7:00 p.m. - Meeting with Officials from Massachusetts Electirc regarding recurring power outages

Discuss Town Accountant's Position
1. Search process (Screening Committee?)
2. Job Description
3. Advertising
4. Interim Town Accountant Services
Board of Selectmen
Workshop Minutes
July 12, 2005
Approved December 20, 2005

1. Call to Order:

Madame Chairman Shirley Mosczynski called the meeting to order at 7:06pm. In attendance: Paula Brouillette, Rich Preston, Edward Therrien, Executive Administrator Michael Guzinski, and Administrative Assistant Suzanne Kane. David Furno absent.

Other staff and citizens: Police Chief Foley, Town Engineer William Cundiff, Senator Richard Moore, Representative Paul Kujawski, Mass Electric’s Key Account Manager, Michael Peterson, Supervisor Distribution Design, Greg Lundahl, Manager Distribution Design, Roger Cox, Director of Operations, John Hoffman, and Vice President, Stephen Hall, Pete Tetreault, Leon Mosczynski, Shirley Cooney, Diane St. George, Mitch Cohen, Jerome Jussaume, Ron Forget, Jennifer Dautrich, Lenny Demers, Martha Dorr, Francis Kelleher, Karen Tolson, Carl Saft, T&G Reporter Steve Foskett, Tribune Reporter Tom Mattson and other residents.

• Meeting with Officials from Mass Electric regarding recurring power outages:
Handed out prior to the meeting is a Power Point presentation from Mass Electric entitled, “Town of Douglas – Selectman’s Meeting, July 12, 2005”, and US Facts about National Grid. • Shirley Mosczynski thanked Senator Moore and Representative Kujawski for attending the meeting. She explained that Mass Electric will do their presentation, and then there will be questions from the Board, followed by questions from the audience. This is a follow up to the Board’s June 21st and 28th meeting. Michael Peterson introduced Vice President, Stephen Hall. Stephen Hall apologized to the Town for poor reliability from Mass Electric. It is not acceptable to Mass Electric and he knows it is not acceptable to the Town. He then went over their power point presentation.
• Electric Supply to the Town of Douglas: There is now three high voltage distribution circuits feeding Douglas, the new one was put in as of June 2005.
• Electric Reliability to Douglas: The electric reliability to Douglas has been substandard in the recent past. Frequency of outages is more than twice the average and the duration is more than two and a half times the average length. This is not their standard for doing business.
• Factors affecting reliability: Some factors that affect reliability are trees, branches, squirrels, raccoons, lightning, equipment failure, motor vehicle accidents, human elements, and load growth.
• Town of Douglas – Interruptions by Cause (2005 – Present): Stephen Hall explained that the pie chart on this slide represents 72 known interruptions from 2004 to present which accounted for the entire Town being down to one person being down for more than one minute. Most outages are neighborhood outages. An example of the section entitled “Unknown” on the pie chart is if there is an outage and the crew can not find a problem but they change the fuse and then it works. It could be a branch but they don’t know. Mr. Hall stated 72 incidents is a large number. The frequency is twice what other communities are experiencing.
• Douglas Load Growth: The Town of Douglas had a 29% increase in usage between 1996 and 2004. It is Mass Electric’s obligation to plan for increases of electricity. They see this in every town but this is unusual for Douglas. Towns increase in electrical usage is generally 2%, Douglas is 12%. They are obligated to hook new users up.
• Events of June 26-27, 2005: Mass Electric did a lot of planning before the weekends events of June 26-27th. What happened – The transformer that feeds 120 customers failed (south of the Whitins Reservoir). It took 6 hours to replace. They then experience an outage all the way back to the substation. A large transformer failed on Church Street. (167 KBA Step Down Transformer). Sunday morning on June 26th crews were dispatched and found the transformer needed to be replaced. They experienced an outage all the way back to the substation which took out one of the major circuits that feeds the area. When they tried to re-fuse the transformer to put it back into service, it blew on “overload” conditions. The transformer was overloaded – too much for that size. They brought out another transformer but could only service 80 customers leaving 37 customers still down. They brought in another transformer and placed it next to the other, doubling the capacity. The outage lasted up to 28 hours. They also experienced load balancing problems with the new feeder brought in June. They were still “Tong’ing” it. (measuring the amount of amps). It blew the breaker at the substation that was a 2 hour outage. The following Tuesday a tree branch came down and caused a 45 minute outage.
• Company Outreach to June 20-27, 2005: Stephen Hall acknowledged that what they have done is “too little too late”, but the company is committed to make things right. They placed an apology letter in the Tribune. They sent out letters to customers. They set up a claims office to process claims on the spot.
• Plan in Place to Improve Reliability: Mass Electric started a study in October 2003. Construction began in March 2004. A new feeder was completed June 2005, and load balancing began mid June 2005.
• Douglas Circuits: The next three slides showed the previous, existing, and future circuits in Douglas. The plan is to have a fourth distribution feeder into Douglas by October of 2006.
• Improving Douglas Reliability: Besides the new line which was brought into Douglas, Mass Electric also completed a relay review at the substation and load balancing of feeders. Three teams will be doing a pole by pole review which they call a “Feeder Hardening Program”. On all distribution circuits they are reviewing cutouts – replacing 300 on the main line to eliminate potential failures. Targeted ones have a high failure rate and will be replaced. They will be animal proofing the substations which feed Douglas with animal proof fencing they don’t die they just receive a jolt. They will be replacing 20 distribution transformers to eliminate future failures and they will complete load readings on the step-down transformers. They will be replacing all known deteriorated poles. They did infrared survey of all three distribution circuits and both substations to catch any future failures. They ordered four distribution reclosers with remote control operations – should be done in the next two to three months. And they will replace smaller primary wire with larger capacity conductor wire.
• Tree Trimming: Mass Electric is doing a significant amount of tree trimming in Douglas. They need to get rid of what is out there. They are doing spot trimming right now with a more comprehensive trimming in the fall. All distribution feeders have been trimmed within the last three years – typically this is done on a five year cycle.
• Tree Trimming & New Program: Mass Electric has never trimmed above the wires. They have a new program, Augmented Clearances for Trees (ACT) which will address trees 20 to 30 feet away. This will increase reliability by removing all hazard trees, structurally weak branches and weak wooded tree species overhang. The program will be started this year in Western and Central Massachusetts.
• What’s Next?: Fixes are not inexpensive – approximately 1 million dollars additional commitment to improve the reliability on existing feeders will be spent in Douglas. A new substation slated for October 2006 and bringing in a fourth feeder to Douglas is what’s planned.
Michael Peterson reiterated that they are very sorry and hopes the Board sees that they are trying to make improvements. He will send an email on a monthly basis to keep Michael Guzinski apprised of their progress. John Hoffman stated he understands his job is to keep the lights on and there are a number of things they can do to make it right. There are a lot of things to do in a short amount of time. He does not disagree with anyone. Rich Preston stated it was his understanding that there was a substation in Douglas and it was taken out, he asked why. Stephen Hall stated it was a lower capacity substation and out dated. The two substation servicing Douglas now are bulk substations. They do have a plan by 2006 to increase the substation in Northbridge. He does not believe that the removal of that substation impacted Douglas. Rich Preston stated it is obvious that Mass Electric is being proactive. He noted that in the last 8 years there has been a 28% increase in usage and asked why Mass Electric was not more reactive in maintaining reliability. Stephen Hall stated there is sufficient capacity now – 2002 is when it started to spike. That is when an area planning study was started. In 2003 it was published. He believes they have been proactive. Rich Preston noted that within the chart of causation – half is due to wires being above ground. Why are they not more proactive in putting wires underground? It would be in their best interest and the Towns. He wonders why when they have had discussions on underground utilities – why Mass Electric can not be more helpful in funding it. The Selectmen have been told the Town would have to fund it completely – which is difficult for a Municipality with a tight budget. Stephen Hall stated it is simply cost prohibitive – it’s expensive. There is a solution – legislation. If it passes at Town Meeting the cost can be applied to the user’s rate. Mass Electric can not bear the cost on its own. There are also opportunities with grants. It’s a mixed blessing – it is more reliable but there is a longer time frame for diagnosis and fixing the problem. Rich Preston stated Mass Electric is a for-profit entity and he thinks it’s important that they invest in the Town – they reap the benefit of millions of dollars from Douglas. He will continue to pursue underground utilities. Stephen Hall stated there are 5 to 6 million dollars that they will be investing in Douglas. They have been proactive in keeping the rates low – they have had a rate freeze for 5 years. Paula Brouillette pointed out that they gave an analysis of what they are doing with trees, but on the pie chart there were only 8 out of 72 outages due to trees. The bigger instances seem to be unknown and equipment failure. John Hoffman went over the upgrades. Teams going pole to pole will significantly affect the failure rate. Paula Brouillette stated she supports Rich Preston’s comments on underground utilities. Underground in a growing community is more acceptable as far as a failure rate and providing electricity without interruptions. Use of electricity has grown 30%. The population of Douglas is around 8,000. Based on the Master Plan, the population is anticipated to grow 3 or 4 times in the next 20-30 years. What is Mass Electric’s plan to be proactive in supplying electricity and not just signing off building more and more homes that they know there is not enough service or adequate service to provide? Stephen Hall stated by replacing the current transformer and installing another transformer they will increase the capacity 5 fold. Shirley Mosczynski asked when the last time was that they checked lightening arresters. John Hoffman stated they do an annual survey. What they are doing now in Douglas is different. They have not done a comprehensive study like they are doing now. Shirley Mosczynski asked what their plan is after the study is done to keep track and survey them. John Hoffman stated it depends on the results. They have lightening problems not lightening arrester problems. They need to make sure things are properly bonded – that arrestors are properly installed and as lines are installed make sure they are loaded properly and arrestors are where they are supposed to be. As they go pole to pole they need to determine what is missing or needs to be there. He reminded the Board that if they have lightening storms they will have outages. Shirley Mosczynski concerning the completion date of the substation – October 2006 is not acceptable if they keep having power outages. What if they keep having these intermittent power outages – is there any chance to have this expedited to have it done sooner. John Hoffman stated that October 2006 is the date they can physically get the equipment prior to that they will be upgrading other equipment. The outages they have had have not been a result of not adding that feeder; they have been a result of issues as stated on the pie chart. October 2006 is the absolute push to get the equipment. Senator Moore stated he represents Douglas in Boston. He is also between the “purple and blue line” as indicated in the presentation. He thinks Mass Electric should have done more but is glad to see what they are doing now. He would appreciate that when the Town gets informed that he also gets informed. They need that regular communication from the company. Monthly building reports should be sent to Mass Electric showing building permits and Planning Board information (subdivision growth) so they can see what might happen and what is happening. He will be following this and will be in touch with Mass Electric. He thinks Douglas deserves better and he hopes Mass Electric will be hounding the company to make sure of the October 2006 date. He commends the Board for being so attentive to this problem. Representative Kujawski stated this situation is an embarrassment. The Board told Mass Electric that what has happened was unacceptable – that is the past. Now they need to look to the future. To the credit of Mass Electric; communication has been constant. They have compensated businesses and households. He is willing to sit with members of the Board to discuss the underground utilities. There is an absorbent cost with underground utilities. They are really addressing an unknown factor. Listening to Mass Electric; they are blaming themselves. Paula Brouillette questioned the 2 ½ overage for duration – is there an explanation for that or how is it going to be addressed. Stephen Hall stated that some are easy to fix and it should go down. John Hoffman stated he looked at those outages – he needs to look at when those outages were occurring and why it took 2.5 times as long to repair. If it takes that long to respond they have an issue of where they placed their people. If it’s taking longer to repair – he’ll dig into that. He needs to find out if it is a response issue or a repair issue. Paula Brouillette stated that if it is a response time they would expect that to get done quicker. The duration is a safety issue. There are people with medical issues. She would like to see more data. John Hoffman stated he will get that data. Senator Moore stated that if the Police have a list of individuals who have equipment that operates by electricity they could bring a generator to their homes. Shirley Mosczynski stated they did discuss Civil Defense with emergency personnel, Fire and Police and they are ready. Those people were notified the last time. Michael Guzinski stated that Fire Chief Gonynor could not be here tonight but one issue that came up was that a lot of the call fire fighters have beepers that are on chargers. Some of them had to go to the Fire Station where there is a generator because their chargers were running down. Those are small things that came up. Police Chief Foley reiterated what Senator Moore stated – they know of at least a dozen people on oxygen. There is also an elderly complex. His biggest issue is people calling the 911 line to find out why they have no power. It ties up that line. The police station calls Mass Electric on a dedicated line. Pointing out that Douglas gets its power through Northbridge and Uxbridge, asked why Douglas can’t have a substation. Stephen Hall stated there is no right of ownership. They are located close to the power lines where they are more beneficial to serve. He would not say that there would never be one in Douglas. Should the Towns growth continue there very well could be a substation in Douglas. He added the company does maintain a medical priority list. Customer service will make an outgoing call to the household to touch base. He asked residents to contact the company if they have a medical or security need and let them know they are out. Calling also helps them analyze the problem. William Cundiff stated over the past 5 years he has noted a number of outages in Douglas. He thinks the silver lining is the response. Keeping that in mind he came across a document entitled “2005 Distribution System Reliability and Operations Survey” put out by the American Public Power Association. He asked through the Selectmen to have Mass Electric complete the survey going back a few years. He stated that on page 5 of the survey, under VI. “Outage Prevention & Restoration”; there are some key issues here. One solution would be to convert from overhead to underground and provided more lightening arrestors. In filling out the survey William Cundiff stated if they want to provide more detail assessment they can. Stephen Hall stated they are familiar with issues of safety and SADI numbers. They do track them. DET oversees this and they will be happy to do it. Jennifer Dautrich of 3 Angel Road expressed her dissatisfaction with Mass Electric. They had a fuse box replaced three years ago at her home. The electrician told her the lines are over 50 years old. Mass Electric is replacing them this year. She stated she had central air put in due to health problems. When the air came on their house went dark until the compressor kicked on. Now with the new lines they do not have problems but she thinks they are too late. They should have done planning a long time ago. Ron Forget of 538 Northwest Main Street stated that the transformer on Church Street went out 6 months ago – it obviously was not “tonged” for the full load. Is there any piece of equipment that is needed in Douglas that is not more than 15 minutes away? Stephen Hoffman explained that 6 months ago it was replaced and it was determined that it was loaded but not overloaded. When it failed they had to go to Brockton for a replacement. They now have backups in Hopedale. The only thing that is not readily available is larger station transformers. Ron Forget feels it is like “pulling hen’s teeth” to get the truth about how long the power is going to be out. What is the availability of crews and how are they going to get response times down. Stephen Hall stated they do have trouble men that are on all hours of the night. For a small outage equipment can be changed on the spot. For larger outages they have to call a crew in which takes longer. Customer Service does a great job – they try to keep everyone informed. It’s not always evident what the problem is on the onset. John Hoffman stated that in the case of the outage in June it was a cascading event. They had a time frame they thought was reasonable. Lenny Demers of 114 Yew Street asked about the 4th circuit and how it will carry. Speaking of the 26% increase – how will that fit on the curve? Roger Cox stated when the 4th circuit comes in it will give them twice the capacity to serve the community. At that point they will have to look at it again. It will give redundant load for several years out. Lenny Demers stated that he is not looking a few years out but when. John Hoffman asked if what he was asking was with the fourth circuit in Town and if the town continues to grow at a rage of 12% (load growth) – how long will those four circuits serve Douglas? Lenny Demers concurred. John Hoffman will get him the answer; he does not know. Donald Dorr of 66 Cedar Street Mr. Dorr stated he recently moved to Douglas and had to buy a generator and pay for emergency installation; asked what he can expect this winter. Stephen Hall stated his expectation is that Douglas will not see a repeat of this year but an improvement. Reminding him that they will never eliminate every outage. Shirley Mosczynski stated the Board is also committed to better service. Carl Saft of 207 Main Street stated the growth rate is mostly determined on the residential rate. Some of the Board is working on commercial properties along 146 and the west side of Town. He would think that would skew the figures factoring in that industries are going to take more electricity. John Hoffman stated they do project load growth from commercial as well. The only way to respond to the unknown is to prepare for it by having the capacity there. Merritt “Pete” Tetreault of 280 Yew Street stated he owns two companies on Davis Street. His company is totally run by computers and when they don’t have electricity they are in deep trouble. He understands underground utilities and all the problems that go with them but he is looking for reliability and a guarantee for his company. Stephen Hall stated they can not give a guarantee but they have put forth a plan for improvements. Francis Kelleher of 128 Wallum Lake Road asked if Mass Electric can provide a comprehensive maintenance plan to the Town. What he sees is a failure to maintain the infrastructure. This was the straw that broke the camels back. He is talking about a 2 to 3 year period and what is Mass Electric going to do about it. His other concern is power surges and brown outs. He has had a considerable amount of damage to equipment. Stephen Hall stated there is no way of knowing what the circumstance was in his case. In the case of the woman with the air conditioning system; assuming the electrician pulled a permit; they would have been notified of the upgrade in service and the size of the house. It’s up to the engineer to make sure the design of the distribution circuit can handle the load. If they fail to do that; it’s a failure on their part and he will accept responsibility for it. Until he knows the facts it’s hard to answer. Francis Kelleher stated he called Mass Electric because his lights would get brighter and he would have brown outs. He was not calling about outages. These are things that are also happening in his neighbors homes; not just his. This has been ongoing for several years and they are not due to things done wrong by an electrician at his neighbor’s houses or his house – its Mass Electric’s Grid. John Hoffman asked Mr. Kelleher to leave his name with him – it sounds like a broken neutral problem. Francis Kelleher stated that although he is not an electrical engineer he thinks it sounds like it’s an “out of phase” problem. John Hoffman stated he does not know that term but will look into it. Shirley Mosczynski reminded John Hoffman that Mr. Kelleher asked if Mass Electric could provide a comprehensive maintenance program – can they do that. John Hoffman stated he thinks they can, or at least give them what the program is. Jennifer Dautrich of 3 Angel Road stated she lives past Mr. Kelleher’s home – they have had problems in the neighborhood for 5 years. One home had a fan blown off the ceiling, another home caught fire. She solved the problem by putting a surge suppressor on her home. She feels it’s due to Mass Electric playing with the grid. She didn’t have problems this last episode because she put the suppressor on. Shirley Cooney stated the problem has been going on for 8 years. She asked if Mass Electric has thought about putting a field office or warehouse in Douglas so they have the things they need to keep Mass Electric in business. The other question was about the infrared scan – is it real and where will they use it. John Hoffman stated it is real – it’s for preventative maintenance and they have used them in all communities. In Douglas they have scanned the main line feeders (the backbone feeders). Shirley Cooney asked if they will be replacing poles. John Hoffman stated they will be replacing connections, not poles. Roger Cox stated they did not find any problems at the Uxbridge substation. Shirley Cooney again stated this goes back 7 - 8 years. John Hoffman stated he does not believe they scanned 7 or 8 years ago. This is relatively new technology 2-3 years old. There is also no need for an office in Douglas – there are a lot of issues with transformers. They need to insure they have a lot of equipment in the close proximity. He does not think placing a lot of equipment here is going to resolve the issue. What is going to resolve the issue is addressing the issues on the pie chart. Karen Tolson of Walnut Street stated when she loses power she has no water. Can Mass Electric or the Town do something to make water assessable? Shirley Mosczynski explained that if they do not have Town water but instead have a well they will lose water. It’s true of most residents in Douglas. She stated it’s not always the case that the whole Town is with out power. There was a situation on Wallace Road where everyone was out of power except two homes. Karen Tolson stated she does not want to go through the expense of putting a generator in. Diane St. George stated people are her concern. There are day care facilities, animal services, people on oxygen would Mass Electric provide generators to those people until they fix the problem? Stephen Hall stated that is something they will take under advisement. He does not think it’s practical but will look into it. Ron Forget stated Mass Electric will be replacing a lot of poles – will the Board of Selectmen be granting a blanket approval? Shirley Mosczynski stated they will take it under advisement – however if they are replacing existing poles they do not have to come before the Board. Michael Peterson concurred – if the poles are put in the same place they do not need a Public Hearing. The Board has always been very cooperative in that respect. Shirley Mosczynski thanked everyone for coming.

The Board took a 5 minute recess at 9:15 pm and resumed the meeting at 9:36 pm.

• Town Accountant’s Position:
Michael Guzinski stated he received a letter of resignation, dated July 11, 2005 from Town Accountant Rich Mathieu who will be leaving in two weeks. The Board needs to take some action in the interim to insure coverage for the office until some one can be appointed. He does know of one firm that does interim Town Accounting and a couple others that he will be researching. Will the Board approve letting him get quotes for an Interim Town Accountant. The Interim will come in and make sure the warrants get done. If they wish he will have the quotes ready for the Board at their meeting next Tuesday so they can appoint someone then. Rich Preston made a motion to accept Town Accountant Rich Mathieu’s resignation as of July 21, 2005 with regret. Paula Brouillette seconded the motion. All – aye. Rich Preston stated the sooner the better in getting a new Town Accountant – his only regret is that they didn’t have more time. He would suggest that in discussing the position, they have an opportunity to consider it being a contractual position and they require a 30 or more day notice – they are very short on time. Rich Preston made a motion to authorize Michael Guzinski to seek the services of an Interim Town Accountant. Paula Brouillette seconded the motion. All – aye. Michael Guzinski stated they need to decide if they will be appointing a screen committee or will they do it themselves. He recommends they look at the job description before an ad goes out. The best way to advertise it through the Beacon they only have one publication in the summer and the deadline is August 12th for the September publication. They should use the time to review the job description. They also need to look at the computer work Rich Mathieu did. The Finance Report from DOR does address that. They need to look for a different avenue to address computers. Paula Brouillette asked if the ad could go online with the Beacon right away. Michael Guzinski stated he will be putting it on the website also. He feels the deadline to receive applications should be shortly after the September 1st date. Rich Preston asked if there is a Town Accountant Association through MMA they could use as a resource to which Michael Guzinski answered yes. Shirley Mosczynski asked the Board if they were comfortable waiting until their next meeting to decide on the search. Consensus of the Board to wait until their next meeting to decide on how to search for the Town Accountant. Shirley Mosczynski suggested the Board have a workshop on Goals and review the Financial Report from DOR. She suggested August 9th at 6:30pm. Rich Preston recommended a follow-up meeting with Mass Electric and the Town Engineer. He suggested August 2nd. Michael Guzinski will check with Mass Electric.

2. Adjournment:
Edward Therrien made a motion to adjourn at 9:42 pm. Paula Brouillette seconded the motion. All –aye.

Respectfully submitted;

Suzanne Kane
Administrative Assistant
Suzanne Kane
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Joined: Wed May 25, 2005 2:01 pm

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