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Boots on the ground

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National Grid’s recent meeting with housing developers in Jefferson County has been proclaimed a success by the power company, which has promised to become involved at an early stage in proposed developments. That could be good news if National Grid devotes enough staff to expediting work with developers who are obligated to provide safe work sites and well-engineered plans before National Grid can begin its work.

National Grid provides all developers standard, detailed check lists to ease the way to completion of a project. What National Grid has not been able to do adequately in Jefferson County is to keep up with the demand for new service, especially at some of the larger projects.

Since National Grid acquired the old Niagara Mohawk, it has faced pressure to reduce or stabilize rates. It has done that but at a cost to ratepayers who find less responsive customer service, which is managed from farther and farther away.

Much progress has been made on rates. Electric distribution costs are stable, and the commodity price of electricity and gas is now determined by market forces. As the price of natural gas drops due to the expansion of supply due to fracking, consumers benefit from lower gas and electric prices since natural gas is increasingly used to generate electricity.

A more involved National Grid is essential to meeting the Jefferson County housing demand as the 10th Mountain Division’s wartime deployments wind down. But that requires more than distribution of guidelines and protocols.

National Grid must find a way to supplement the two solid staff members in the Watertown location who already face a very heavy workload just trying to keep up with the demand for help. If National Grid wants to make sure developers understand their requirements, it needs more voices on the ground.

National Grid needs to be involved as part of the community coalition seeking increased housing development. National Grid must provide guidance to the community about a developer’s history of performance so the community makes informed decisions on which firms will become partners in the effort.

Virginia J. Limmiatis of National Grid described the discussions as focused on how the energy company can proactively help developers understand criteria needed for projects to avoid mistakes. Mrs. Limmiatis said most delays are caused by a misunderstanding of project requirements. Misunderstandings can be eliminated by a staff with enough time to work through day-to-day issues with a common goal of bringing online adequate housing for the community and military families.

Success will be determined by National Grid itself. It can eliminate misunderstanding and delays. The power company clearly understands the issues and now needs to provide adequate numbers of staff members to ensure everyone succeeds.

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