Couple asks state for help in Wells tower battle
By Cristina Kumka
STAFF WRITER | October 04,2012
WELLS — A couple who lost a recent battle against an electric utility over a radio tower next to their home is asking the state for help to access their driveway.
The Vermont Electric Power Company, commonly known as VELCO, says the couple’s latest complaint to the Public Service Board about access to the work site of an 80-foot radio communications tower the company is constructing next to their property amounts to nothing more than “harassment.”
Kerrick Johnson, spokesman for VELCO, said the couple’s recent letter, alleging improper electricity use and blockage of their driveway, is also an “attempt to gouge ratepayers for money.”
Sergei “Felix” Kniavez and Olga Julinska, full-time residents of Boston, Mass., who own a second home on Northeast Mountain in Wells, received $25,750 from VELCO in May after losing the right to a piece of land near their home.
The PSB had granted VELCO the right to a 40-by-40-foot easement where the 80-foot tower is now being constructed as part of the utility’s Statewide Radio Project, which goes into effect at the start of 2013.
The tower is to be used to provide wireless communications between utility workers. But it can also be used in the future by other companies that want wireless service, as long as radio frequency levels meet federal standards.
The couple did not provide enough evidence to suggest the company’s construction of the tower on its purchased easement was at all detrimental to the property, according to the PSB.
In a Sept. 25 letter, the couple alleged VELCO was not complying with the easement and surveyed a different area, completely overlapping the driveway up to the couple’s home.
The couple said the survey was different from the easement plan approved by the PSB and they were losing a portion of their road.
They asked the PSB to make VELCO move its survey “over and off the driveway to the north where there is ample space for it,” as depicted in one of the utility’s drawings.
The couple also claimed the company did not adhere to a 30-day window to provide a plan for how it would get electricity to the tower, rather than using an existing, noncompliant line on the ground.
Central Vermont Public Service (now part of Green Mountain Power) asked the couple in June to rectify the electricity-sharing situation between VELCO and their home because it was illegal.
The couple wrote: “As landowners responsible for this line, which has been found unsafe and illegal, we don’t feel that we can keep operating it for the benefit of VELCO. We ask that the board enforce its requirement expressed in the final order that VELCO stop using this line immediately and find its own means of energizing its facility.”
Johnson of VELCO provided a letter, dated Aug. 13 and sent to the PSB, notifying the board that the company was working on an easement plan and bill of sale for the utility line with Mettowee Lumber & Plastics.
Susan Hudson, clerk for the PSB, said the board will review the couple’s letter.
Johnson said the tower will be built by the start of next year and “line workers will be better for it.”