HOPKINTON – When Tropical Storm Henri hit towns in southwest Rhode Island in August, it exposed the fragility of the community’s electrical system – the storm left more than 4,000 National Grid customers without service.
Three days later, as the company sought to remedy the widespread damage statewide, nearly 1,000 customers were still without power as summer drew to a close and families prepared to return home. ‘school.
City staff, including Director of Public Works David Caswell, and members of City Council, led by Scott Bill Hirst as a liaison, have worked with the company ever since with the goal of reducing the potential and duration of electrical service outages in the city. . The efforts have led to a focused focus on addressing overhanging trees and other tree issues that could negatively impact infrastructure, Caswell and Hirst said this week, and includes a reduction schedule that will see multiple areas , including Chase Hill Road and Maxson Hill Road, cut and properly maintained over the next year.
The Diamond Hill Road area would be treated in 2023 under the current maintenance schedule.
The project, which is part of a four-year maintenance program to remove and prune trees that threaten National Grid’s electrical equipment such as power lines and transformers, will help address the underlying causes of some of the most prolonged and extensive outages in recent years. years, Caswell told members of Hopkinton City Council this week.
Following a meeting at Crandall House on Monday with Paul Stasiak and several arborists from National Grid, and Joe Shilling, an engineer in the State Division of Utilities and Transporters, Caswell said he was confident the he company was working to effectively solve any problem within the city.
“Sir. Shilling and I had a long discussion afterwards. He said that at this point he had been tasked by the Governor to investigate the incidents and continue to follow up on the results of today’s meeting. ‘hui,’ Caswell said.
The recent discussions follow a growing number of complaints from residents regarding the frequency and duration of power outages in recent years. The most recent widespread blackout occurred after Hurricane Henri hit the west, causing extensive damage, particularly in towns east and northeast of the Rhode Island border with the Connecticut.
Over the past month, the city has again been hit with three separate blackouts, and a small segment of the population has been affected by all three, Caswell said. However, the problems weren’t due to system or maintenance issues – one animal was cited as the cause of one failure, a motor vehicle for the second, and a tree branch that struck a power line. during a period without a storm causing damage was responsible for the third.
Caswell and Hirst told council members this week that with the trees being repaired and other work planned for the near future, including the installation of additional equipment to mitigate the impact of blackouts when incidents occur.
“Basically we have good news in that they are talking about installing two new fuses, which are specifically designed to reduce the number of blackouts,” Hirst said. “It might not solve everything, but it is at least a step in the right direction.”
While the efforts provide a solution, Caswell warned that even with a strong effort to remove any troublesome trees, National Grid will still have a somewhat limited scope in terms of what can be done.
Caswell said the average cost to fell a tree is around $ 1,000, some slightly more or less depending on the size. He noted that even with the effort, the city will still struggle with ongoing challenges such as damage from gypsy moths, droughts and the emerald ash borer, which kills trees and can cause significant problems by rotting trees. trees from below or inside.
“National Grid doesn’t own any trees and the company is already spending a lot of money on tree removal in this town,” Caswell said. “They went above and beyond to help us remove target trees, and we have to keep that in mind. “