MMA letter to Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee urging support for local ability to purchase utility poles

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The Honorable Thomas A. Golden, House Chair
The Honorable Michael J. Barrett, Senate Chair
Joint Committee Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy
State House, Boston
Dear Senator Barrett, Representative Golden, and Distinguished Committee Members,
On behalf of the cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association strongly urges your committee to act favorably on H. 2702, An Act Relative to the Purchase of Utility Poles by a Municipality, filed by Rep. Stephen Kulik. Currently, cities and towns lack adequate authority to control their own rights of way, and this legislation would solve this problem by giving cities and towns the right to purchase utility poles from the companies that own them at a price that takes into account the utility poles’ depreciation in value.
Municipalities are disadvantaged in negotiations with utility companies because of inadequate provisions in the General Laws, and this means that efforts by cities and towns to act on behalf of their taxpayers are stymied. This is why issues such as double utility poles, misplaced utility poles and wires, pole attachments such as those used for broadband networks, and the purchase of poles and telecommunications equipment, persist with little resolution. This legislation is a companion bill to H. 2701, An Act Relative to Municipal Authority in Public Rights of Way. H. 2701 would address this issue by providing communities with the ability to enforce current laws through fines, assessment of taxes, and in the licensing and permitting process. Together, these bills would give municipalities the tools they need to enforce the law and negotiate with the companies that operate in and on public rights of way.
For years, cities and towns across the state have been experiencing problems due to the failure of utility companies to complete work on double utility poles within the statutorily prescribed 90-day time period.This legislation would allow for communities and the pole owner to come to a fair agreement if a municipality chooses to take the step of purchasing its utility poles. This agreement could make sense, in some cases, for both the community and the pole owner, because the responsibility of maintaining poles would be transferred to the municipality. This bill would ensure that communities have the opportunity to enter into discussions about the purchase of utility poles knowing that the price would take into account the depreciation in the value of the poles. Both bills would enhance municipalities’ ability to achieve reasonable and accountable action by those utilities that operate in public rights of way.
The MMA strongly urges you to support H. 2702. This bill would provide communities with an additional tool to help to address the issues of double utility poles and municipal authority in public rights of way. Please do not hesitate to have your office contact us at any time if you have further questions or wish to receive additional information.
Thank you very much.
Geoffrey C. Beckwith
Executive Director & CEO