Letter to the Editor: Free easements aren’t deserved

There is not a single good reason to give easements to Vermont Gas at no charge. If you agree, please vote NO on Article 1 on Nov. 7, (or during early voting Monday-Thursday between now and November 3rd).
Part of the reason such a lousy deal was approved by the Middlebury Select Board was because Vermont Gas Systems (VGS) gave the Select Board the impression that none of the other communities they serve ever ask them to pay for easements to use town land for distribution lines. The implication was that Middlebury would be an outlier if we required easement payments.
I have contacted numerous cities and towns in both Addison and Chittenden County, and not one city or town manager can remember VGS ever asking for an easement to install distribution lines on municipal land. It turns out that the company almost always uses the road Right-of-Way when installing distribution lines, as they have already done for free throughout Middlebury.
VGS hardly ever has to pay for easements to install distribution lines across municipal property because they hardly ever ask to do so, not because it is commonly allowed and business as usual among other towns and cities. VGS has already paid for easements in 2014 and 2016 to install their distribution lines on property owned by Middlebury College and a couple local businesses. Why are they treating the Town of Middlebury differently?
The primary reason municipalities have traditionally allowed utilities to have access to public land at no charge is because the services they provide greatly improve the quality of life for its citizens. If Green Mountain Power were unable to hook up to buildings downtown for example, there is no other company that can take its place and provide electric power to those locations.
In the case of VGS however, most of the customers they seek to reach with these easements are already enjoying the benefits of a gas fuel/energy source in the form of propane. Rather than greatly improve their quality of life, VGS will be offering an alternative gas fuel source that can save these folks money. That is all well and good, however, as far as I know, when a company provides the opportunity for residents and landowners to save a few dollars, it does not qualify that company to receive special treatment from the town such as getting free access to public land to profit from for decades to come. The town should be consistent in how we treat our business community.
Vote NO on Article 1 on Nov. 7 at the Middlebury municipal building and give our Selectboard the opportunity to renegotiate the easements so they include compensation for the town.
Ross Conrad

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