Bringing reliability one customer at a time

Western Massachusetts is home to the Berkshires, a vast ecosystem of rolling mountains, forests and wetlands that The Nature Conservancy calls one of “The Last Great 200 Places” in America.  The terrain provides many challenges for utilities, which must run feeders through boggy wetlands and dense forests while maintaining the highest of safety for workers and customers alike.

Crews working in the Berkshires, MAWe faced such a challenge at Goodrich Hollow in Hancock, Massachusetts, when the 1050M feeder was experiencing frequent reliability issues, affecting 17 customers over a 3.5 mile span.  The recurrence of outages made Goodrich Hollow a top priority, and the decision was made to rebuild the entire feeder to dramatically decrease the occurrence of service interruptions.

At the completion of the project, the crews, all of whom were based out of North Adams, Massachusetts, had run 19,603 feet of wire, or approximately 3.71 miles, along 37 new poles and existing ones.  Much of the line was Bare #4 wire, with Hendrick’s single-phase spacer cable that will protect against branch fires and dramatically decrease outages for years to come.

Mike Williams, Sr. Supervisor of Overhead Lines in North Adams and project manager for Goodrich Hollow had to quickly assess the logistics of this project, and there were many concerns.  “The narrow roads, the difficult terrain, the length of the wire we would be running were all issues that we had to overcome,” Williams said.  “The right-of-way easement on such soft ground was of particular concern for us.”

Williams worked closely with Diane Clowes and Heeran Ramberan from engineering Bay State West on the design of the new feeder. A task which usually requires months of planning, they were able to redesign the configuration for Goodrich Hollow in less than seven days.

Work on the project began on July 2, wrapping up on October 12, a speed at which would not have been possible without the crews giving up their Saturdays for the length of the project.  But speed was not the main concern: safety and cost effectiveness were.

“Safety was of key concern for all of us out here,” Williams said.  “I am proud to report we had no incidents or outages throughout the duration of this project, all while implanting cost-saving measures.”

Kit Carson, crew leader on the project, explains further.

“We utilize a step-by-step process to keep up with the efficiency,” said Carson.  “We take our time to make sure we don’t have to go out to a pole 20 times when we only needed to go three.  It was a tremendous learning process for us all.  Mike is very good at cost effectiveness.”

One of the cost saving measures used on the project was a bucket digger supplied to us as a prototype by Altec.  The machine, equipped with both a pole digger and bucket, uses a rubber-track system that allows operators to get into right-of-way areas much more quickly and efficiently than the larger trucks could.  Since the company loaned it to us to use as a trial, we did not incur any additional costs.  Williams also had the poles delivered directly to the site; without having the need to deliver the poles from North Adams to Goodrich Hollow, an additional saving was incurred.

Additionally, Williams and the crew built relationships with the local residents, who allowed them to use their property to leave the equipment, saving on cost and wear.

The North Adams crew continued to exercise safety as they have always done.  As of October 2015, they have gone 3,457 days with no Lost Time Incidents, 849 days with no OSHA recordables or restricted duties, and 593 days with no Motor Vehicle Incidents.  Williams attests this record to the pride and closeness of the North Adams crew.

“This crew, all from North Adams, exemplifies what team work is all about,” he said.  “They’re a tight-nit group who all work well together.  Their willingness to work weekends for seven weeks shows the pride and dedication each and every one of them had to getting this project done.  I’m proud to work with them all.”

John Doherty, Overhead Line Manager, Bay State West echoed this, but was also quick to give additional praise.

“Mike was the real driver behind this project, front to finish,” he said.  “Every person involved in this project took their input and feedback from him and he coordinated all groups to be as efficient as possible.  With his experience as a Lineworker and as a Sr. Supervisor he was able to direct this project in a safe and productive manner.  His crews took a lot of pride in what they were doing out there.”

Check out the work that they did below.

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Working on the project was Brian Ash- Crew Leader, Joe Augustus- 3rd class, Dave Bentley- Crew leader, Kevin Birch-Troubleshooter, Greg Brown- Troubleshooter, Chuck Bullet- 1st class, Justin Cameron- 3rd class, Kit Carson- Crew Leader, Randy Deblois- Crew Leader, Mike Girard- 2nd class, Bob Goodell- 1st class, Eric Leclair- 1st class, Digger Neipp- 2nd class, Bob Niles- Troubleshooter, Gary Bellows- Ops Supervisor, Paul Brochu- Director, Dan Bunszell- Vice President, Caci Cabral- Clerk, Diane Clowes- Senior Designer, Kevin Dodge- 1/C Auto Tech, John Doherty- Manager OH, Bob Huberdeau- Stores, Stephen Katinas- Manager OM, Brian Skorupski – Auto Tech 2/C, Lance Wade- Arborist.

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