The Board meets on the first and third Monday of each month. Meetings begin at 1:00 p.m. and are held in the department conference room at 65 Lafayette Ave, Littleton. Board meetings are open to the public and time is allotted for public comments at each meeting.
The regularly scheduled business meeting of the Littleton Water and Light (LWL) Board of Commissioners (BOC) began at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 4, 2023 in the LWL conference room. Present were Commissioner Peter Cooper, Commissioner Ralph Ross, Commissioner Linda MacNeil, Director of Finance Lori Hogan, and Superintendent Thomas Considine.
The minutes of the December 19, 2022 regularly scheduled Commissioners meeting were reviewed. Commissioner MacNeil made a motion to accept the minutes as presented, seconded by Commissioner Ross.
The vote was in favor of the motion 3-0-0
CUSTOMER & PUBLIC CONCERNS:
1. Superintendent Considine presented the BOC with and update regarding LWL power restoration efforts following the windstorm that effected the northeast and Littleton on December 23, 2022.
The initial storm trouble happened before sunrise and the typical trouble areas were affected though the damage was manageable, power was restored by 3:00 pm and all LWL personnel were released.
Another round of severe weather with significantly higher wind guests returned to the area around 6:00 pm that resulted in various outage throughout our service territory due to tree damage to the lines. The area that sustained the most damage and endured the longest outage duration (about 12-hours) were areas adjacent to Oak Hill Avenue and Mannís Hill. A large softwood (30-inch diameter) at the corner of Pine Street and Pleasant Street fell during the storm and brought wires to the ground. This caused the circuit breaker at the Lafayette substation to open interrupting electric service to a large area of town.
Compounding the event was that much of the legacy telephone systems (statewide landline) and associated infrastructure was not working due to the storm. This caused communication problems throughout LWLís service territory as customers could not access LWL paging system to report their outage.
LWL personnel worked diligently throughout the night at Pleasant Street and various other locations to restore power as temperatures were steadily dropping, the majority of LWL customers had power restored by about 10:00 am on Christmas Eve (12/24/2022). LWL communications/ paging system functionality was restored by 8:00 am on Christmas Eve (12/24/2022) using internet lines as the landlines were still inoperable.
Following a suitable rest period (personnel safety) LWL personnel returned to work at about 3:30 pm and restored power to all remaining customers by about 11:00 pm. A few trouble calls were reported throughout Christmas Day (12/25/22) that on-call personnel responded to including a structure fire on Slateledge Road.
Littleton Fire Chief asked LWL to submit costs that were associated with the storm in accordance with a request from the governorís office of emergency management. Mrs. Hogan compiled a detailed repair/restoration cost estimate that totaled about $73,000 as restoration efforts are ongoing. In total three (3) poles were broken, necessary field repairs were made, and power was restored, no poles needed to be replaced during the storm.
Mr. Rudy Gelsi, LWL ratepayer and resident of the Town of Littleton (ToL), commented positively on LWL storm restoration activities though he stated that NH 135 (North Littleton Road) was closed for too long a period of time inconveniencing motorist on their way to work on Friday morning.
Mr. Considine stated LWL lines and poles did not impact traffic as all LWL work activity was off the edge of the road on the morning of December 23, 2022. The tree that impaired/ closed traffic on NH 135 was cleared by telephone personnel aided by NHDOT highway crews. Other closures on secondary town roads due to felled tree/power lines occurred during the evening hours though traffic impact with minimal.
2. Mr. Gelsi inquired as to what authority the BOC has that LWL can raise electric rates (by 35 percent) without permission of the people when it affects property taxes and the taxpayers?
Commissioner Cooper stated that the LWL BOC was granted legislative authority in 1903 by a vote of the people that passed into law. All LWL operating activities are funded by its rate payers like Eversource and are not funded by property taxes. LWL has operated under this legislation and several others for over 100 years. LWL is run as a business or enterprise fund and is not a political entity like the town where all its operating activities (police, fire, DPW) are funded by property taxes.
There was some back-and-forth discussion, a graph was referenced regarding how LWL sets rates and why and when adjustments are needed.
Mr. Gelsi asked if the LWL BOC took into consideration the people of Littleton when it came to raising rates? Littleton is comprised of mostly retired people on fixed incomes, and they are suffering because of this rate increase.
Commissioner Ross stated that he was slightly offended by that comment. LWL historically maintains some of the lowest electric rates in the region and has been in a legal fight with the Town of Littleton and State of NH for the past several years. LWL has always been very dedicated to its ratepayers and protecting its ratepayers from being exploited by local and state governmental officials is the reason that LWL is fighting the lawsuit. How a rate increase impacts the LWL customers is always the first consideration when rates are discussed.
Mr. Gelsi thanked the BOC for their time and exited the meeting at about 1:40 pm
SUPERINTENDENT/ GENERAL MANAGERS REPORT:
1. The proposed 2023 Operating and Maintenance (O&M) budget was presented to the BOC for approval for the water and electric divisions. Increases/adjustment in the tree trimming costs and 401A deferred compensation plan (LWL match/contribution) were discussed and explained.
Mr. Considine stated that tree trimming expenses are averaging between seven (7) to eight (8) thousand dollar each week and that the dollar figure represented in the budget fully funds the program for fifty (50) weeks. These costs are offset somewhat by savings in overtime pay and increase customer reliability which is tough to put a dollar figure too.
Commissioner Ross commented that LWL has solicitate RFPs for tree trimming work in the past does LWL expect to use Lucas Tree in 2023.
Mr. Considine stated that the years when RFPs were solicited/used the production was down and price per foot was up. The contractor bids are inflated due to unknowns resulting in less cutting/trimming being accomplished. Having the same contractor/individual on an hourly rate (time and materials) has paid dividend regarding work production, flexibility, and system customer reliability. Some customers/people like to criticize about the time and materials approach though the results are proven as system reliability has improved and cost per foot line appears economical. The contractorís work is managed closely by LWL personnel.
No change in the wholesale power supply line was annotated due to the December 6, 2022 power supply solicitation that hedged a small portion of LWL open position for the 2023 winter months. It was decided not to change/adjust the expenses line-item and that a small buffer was warranted and prudent considering the current operating environment and cost of natural gas
Mrs. Hogan explain that the increase/ change in the 401A line item was the result of several of LWL new employees opting to enroll in the program.
2. The proposed 2023 Capital Improvement Project and Equipment (CIPE) plan was presented to the BOC for approval.
The only change/increase in cost was the addition of a 7-kW stand-by generator ($3,000) for the Mannís Hill water tank control building. The storm on December 24, 2022 disrupted the power supply to this area which affected the local FM-radio communication between the LWL, LPD and DPW when the existing stand by generator failed to start. Though a minor inconvenience during the storm, as cell phones are now prevalent, communication with the LPD and LFD would have been easier it the radios worked. If LWL needed to perform any type of overhead line circuit switching the lack of LWL truck to truck FM capability would have made the process burdensome.
If approved LWL plans to install the new generator at Trudeau Road Chlorination (higher priority) and place the used generator at Mannís Hill as typically this area does not lose power. LWL pays all cost associated with keep this shared asset functioning.
LWL received a revised status/ update about the new line/bucket truck ordered in January 2022 from Kiley Truck in Boston. Due to the difficulties in attaining the truck a chassis Kiley does not expect that the new line truck will be available for delivery until possible the fall of 2023 at the earliest.
Following some general discussion Commissioner MacNeil made a motion to approve and accept the 2023 proposed Operating and Maintenance budget and project and equipment plan as presented. Seconded by Commissioner Ross.
The vote was in favor of the motion 3-0-0.
3. Regarding the on-going lawsuit, Grafton County Court has scheduled a status conference between all parties for Friday, January 13, 2023 to discuss the case. The conference was prompted automatically as the allotted time for the legal stay requested by the ToL passed without the court being notified of any resolution.
There being no further business to come before the board Commissioner MacNeil made a motion to adjourn the meeting, seconded by Commissioner Ross.
The vote was in favor of the motion 3-0-0.
The regularly scheduled Commissionerís meeting is held twice monthly on the first and third Monday, at 1:00 p.m., in the Departmentís conference room.