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Arthur aftermath letter: One cut out fuse too far


Sometimes successive governments, even with the best of intentions create absolutely uncontrollable entities. For example - Look at the current debacle associated with our supposedly Nova Scotia proud sailing ship the Bluenose. Any junior nautical engineer could have easily designed around the difficulties that plague that cost over ridden vessel, but alas, for all of the wrong reasons, that was not to happen and the costs keep mounting. In an almost identical manner, many of the residents of Shelburne County are being denied power due to the damage caused by hurricane Arthur, because of the restoration methodology and preventable maintenance practices, managed by our highly paid executives at the power corporation. For example I am just sitting one open fuse cut-out away from a perfectly good power source for over 35 hours and it will likely be another 35 hours ( a total of 3 days – in fact it was 4 days) before power is restored. How can this be, if we are paying the senior executives at the power corporation over 15 million dollars every year (collectively) to deliver reliable power?  And we thought the Bluenose was expensive?

Yes – hurricane Arthur did a number on us, but as storms go we have had far worse in this province and Arthur’s impact was well forecast and not unexpected. Then why did our power fail and why cannot logical power restoration take place in a timely and efficient manner? The answer is very simple. The corporate mantra at the power corporation is to make money at the rate payer’s expense and the Utilities Review Board (URB) has not put in adequate checks and balances to insure that we with no lights and no alternate choices are not taken advantage of.

The reason we are in the mess that we are in is that the senior managers at the power corporation have elected to save money by curtailing preventative maintenance programs (i.e.: tree trimming in right of ways), failing to build adequate maintainability features and sufficient robustness into their distribution systems and not having sufficient trained and properly equipped resources available to operate and especially maintain it. This combined with an almost total failure of their general public/subscriber communications system has resulted in a public relations disaster for the power company and for many home owners a financial disaster in lost food, property maintenance and general discomfort and worry.

The solutions are simple but will detract from the corporate bottom line. The power corporation needs to spend more money on tree trimming and other aspects of general maintenance. They need to better engineer simplicity of maintenance and redundancy into their distribution system. They need to rework the means of communication and especially the content of their communications with their customers.

Over the past 20 years we have seen a steady flow of power company resources leave this county. Trucks and crews are gone, retired employees are not replaced and what little local knowledge of the various systems we did have is all but gone. What we do not see, that is also gone, is all of the effort that was formally put into right of way maintenance. The fact that we have marketable wood growing above the high voltage wire(s) did not happen overnight. We all sat and watched it occur over many years.

Is there some good news in all of this – yes there is. There were few pole failures as a result of hurricane Arthur, and that means poles at least are being maintained and replaced as needed. It also means that power lines are being properly engineered and designed. Now if we can just get the right of ways dealt with and better smarts built into the distribution system we are well on the way to having few or no failures at all.

Do we the subscribers have a role in all of this? We certainly do. When the tree trimmers show up, treat them with respect and understand that while that 100 year old ornamental oak tree in your yard, which is also in the power line right of way, is a wonderful thing to behold, but know, it will almost certainly put yours and all of your neighbours lights out in the next big storm unless it is trimmed up a little bit. In my own case, after an ornamental tree in my yard, almost burned my house down due to power line contact - I had them remove it completely.

The front line workers at the power corp, the ones with the yellow hard hats have my total admiration, the white hard hat people and their white shirt and tie counterparts we need to talk to – real earnestly.

Don Bower

Lower Ohio

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