Thursday, August 19, 2010

Underground Utilities - the rest of the story

With homage to the late Paul Harvey, whose signature line is quite appropriate here. For those watching the Town Council meeting on Wednesday evening, we were able to find out the "rest of the story" on putting the utilities underground.

1 - What was presented earlier is still valid.

2 - The section of W Central between the bridge and Emmons, and Emmons between W Central and Main St were originally considered for underground utilities. The estimate for these sections would be 4-5 million dollars. Due to the estimate, these sections have been excluded from the current planning.

3 - Once the utilities go underground, the electric service is delivered to within 2 feet of the property line. The property owner would then either connect to the service there or need to run the service to where his power box is currently. This cost would be paid for the property owner. The utilities have thus far refused to estimate this cost. The cost estimates would be better obtained from electrical contractors. The property owners would have to pay for the work from their business income. In cases where the property is rental units, this cost would likely result in higher rental rates.

4 - Franklin would need to front the money for the work to be done due to the way the utilities would do it. NationalGrid would be 'easy' as its work and funding could be accomplished within a year. Both Verizon and Comcast, due to the expense involved, would require a longer period to obtain the funds and therefore would spread the work out over a longer period. This is not acceptable as all the work needs to be done when the street construction is done. Franklin can arrange to borrow the money for the work. The utilities would then through the customer surcharges reimburse Franklin.

5 - To go through this borrowing process, Franklin needs to hold a public hearing. The public hearing was agreed to by all the councilors present as they did not feel comfortable to make the decision on their own. The date for the public hearing was not determined during the Council meeting.

The agenda document for the Town Council meeting has supporting information (memos from Jeff Nutting) on this matter here. Look to pages 6, 7 and 8.

Franklin, MA


  1. The council should take a pass on this one.

    We are months removed from a failed override (one that I personally supported) where the voters rejected funding for Schools, Roads and Public Safety. Clearly these were higher priority items than the aesthetics of putting 3 blocks of utilities underground.

    If the council passes this, it will be viewed as a back door tax, circumventing the will of the voters, and the council will appear to be tone deaf.

    If they pass this, I fear the undermine support for real priorities that are coming down the road like the High School when they will need voter approval.

  2. Graydon, good points! Fortunately the Town Council will hold a public hearing to solicit input before making a vote. The opportunity now will be to generate a great turnout for the public hearing.