Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Honorable Jeffrey Roy, House Chair
The Honorable Michael Barrett, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy
State House, Boston
Dear Chair Roy, Chair Barrett, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,
On behalf of cities and towns across the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association strongly supports S. 2107 and H. 3156, An Act relative to municipal authority in the public rights of way.
This bill would give municipalities increased authority over utility companies that operate in the public right of way. Specifically, if utility companies delay in relocating decommissioned utility poles and wires beyond the statutorily allowed 90 days, municipalities would then have the authority to move said poles, bill for the removal, and enact fees. Further, this legislation would allow municipalities and municipal light plants to purchase utility poles at a price that takes depreciation into account.
It is regular practice for utility companies to replace existing utility poles when old poles reach the end of their useful lives. The replacement process typically includes a period of time when new and old poles exist simultaneously, often referred to as “double poles.” Existing statute calls for the removal of such poles by utility companies within 90 days, however, municipalities have little ability to enforce this deadline.
The accumulation of double poles is an issue in nearly every community across the Commonwealth — creating safety and accessibility risks, delaying construction projects, and reducing confidence in government. According to recent semi-annual reporting on double poles, one utility company reports over 5,000 double poles are awaiting removal. This is only a fraction of the total for all companies operating in Massachusetts.
Most importantly, double poles create significant safety risks. Municipal officials regularly field complaints from residents and property owners regarding these unsafe and unsightly double poles. These double poles can obstruct the vision of drivers, block or crowd sidewalks and intersections, hide road signs, and create a hazard for vehicles, pedestrians, and other users of roads and sidewalks. Finally, double poles have only one pole attached to the ground, despite potentially carrying high voltage wires — a clear vulnerability and liability with the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events.
If enacted, S. 2107 and H. 3156 would provide leverage to cities and towns to ensure that utility companies are accountable and follow through with their legal obligation to attend to decommissioned infrastructure in a timely manner. The bills’ provisions would encourage and maintain collaborative relationships between utility companies and municipalities, which is a necessary goal as we move further into electrification and improved telecommunication. Strong partnerships between utility companies, the state, and local governments are essential to the success and well-being of Massachusetts. These bills should be of primary importance to all parties to meet this urgency for the Commonwealth.
We greatly appreciate the opportunity to submit testimony on this important issue and encourage the Committee to support these bills with a favorable report. If you have any questions or desire further information, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me, or MMA Legislative Analyst Adrienne Núñez at firstname.lastname@example.org, at any time.
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this issue and your commitment to safe, thriving cities and towns.
MMA Executive Director and CEO