Lights Out  |  April 23, 2008

At the 3/19/08 Board of Trustees meeting, Mr. Tony Mason raised the topic of Orange and Rockland’s dubious reputation for uninterrupted electric service.

Since the company no longer generates electricity, and is primarily in the transmission business, one would think power outages might diminish in frequency and duration.

Mr. Mason’s theme was that they haven’t, and in fact, a recent storm had shut down electricity in parts of the Village for a day or two.

The BOT was sympathetic, but indicated that they enjoyed little or no influence over O&R. The Trustees seemed to feel that larger communities receive repair preference since more subscribers are affected. They also felt the outage problem frequently stems from tree branches being dislodged during a storm, and then falling onto power lines.

Ex-Mayor McFadden commented that our Zoning Code requires all property owners to maintain their front yards and trim trees along their property frontage. He suggested that electric outages could be curtailed if the Trustees only enforced this existing law.

Unfortunately, the closest relevant ordinance in our VTP Code is 75-9-H: “The exterior of all premises shall be kept free of the following matter, materials or conditions: H. Fallen trees, limbs or branches within 50 feet of a public roadway or property line.”

This requirement makes no reference to pruning those limbs still attached, nor does it speak to cutting trees or limbs considered too close to electric lines. 75-9-H deals only with the clean up of trunks and branches already fallen on the first 50’ of your property.

In fact, O & R considers it very dangerous for homeowners to be clearing live limbs close to overhead power cables.

When brought to the ex-Mayor’s attention, he quickly re-stated that the requirement for 50 ft. trimming appears in New York State’s Fire Prevention & Building Code rather than in VTP’s Code.

A subsequent review of the NYSFP & BC revealed no such ordinance or recommendation.

Please be advised NOT to attempt cutting trees or pruning branches in close proximity to telephone poles and/or electric power cables. You have no obligation to do so. Rather, call O & R’s Customer Service line: 1-877-434-4100 and ask that their contractor remove potentially hazardous branches or entire trees if deemed to threaten electric service.

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