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Lansford to join other towns in complaint against PPL Electric

Published August 12. 2010 05:00PM

Lansford Borough Council on Wednesday unanimously agreed to join with other municipalities in a Lackawanna County firm's state complaint against PPL Electric Utilities.

Municipal Energy Managers of Moscow plans to file the complaint with the state Public Utilities Commission because, it says, PPLEU is dragging its feet on plans to have the municipalities buy street lights rather than lease them from the electric company.

"What appears to be happening is that MEM is running into some resistance from PPL transferring over the street lights," borough solicitor Robert T. Yurchak said at council's regular public meeting.

MEM has contracted with several communities in the TIMES NEWS coverage area to handle the changeover from leasing to ownership. The plan, MEM promises, would save municipalities tens of thousands of dollars over time. MEM would install and maintain the lights.

Tamaqua Borough Council signed on to the complaint in July. Coaldale council on Tuesday asked its solicitor, Michael Greek, to contact MEM.

In a July 15 letter from MEM to officials of 18 municipalities, including Lansford, Coaldale, Nesquehoning and Tamaqua, the firm said that on July 14, it's attorney, Tom Niesen of Harrisburg, received an email from PPLEU saying that a draft contract would be sent within a day or two. The letter said that MEM hoped the draft would be a starting point for talks, but that it still planned to file the PUC complaint.

A July 13 letter to the municipalities from MEM explained the difficulty.

MEM had handled the transfer of the street lights in 11 other instances, the letter said. But "in Aug. 2009, PPLEU wrote to MEM claiming, inconsistent with the 11 prior occasions, that the work that MEM had done was unauthorized. PPLEU demanded that it be provided with written confirmation that each municipality intended to purchase its municipal street lights. We worked with you to respond to PPLEU's demand identifying MEM as your designated agent for street light transaction and asking that PPLEU expedite the transaction," the letter said.

But on July 11, 2010, MEM met with PPL and was told the utility "would not execute agreements and that the prior 11 transactions were the 'exception' to a PPLEU general practice concerning street light acquisition," MEM's letter to the municipal officials said.

"We feel that we are at an impasse with PPLEU and that, in order to move to closing on the street light acquisition transactions, we need to become more aggressive," MEM's letter said.

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