Citizen Robin Huyett Thomas spoke to the Commission during public comment and advised them that certain lenders will not approve financing for homes within the fall zone of transmission towers. There are many homes in Jefferson County that are already affected. However, Dominion's plan to increase the height of its towers by another 30 feet will necessarily affect additional homes.
Keryn Newman spoke to the Commission during a scheduled agenda item on the rebuild and presented the detailed public safety questions posed by citizen Sharon Wilson, who could not be present for the meeting. Sharon is concerned about the public safety aspects of access roads, proximity of the work zone to homes, coordination with local public safety/emergency services, and possible future road closures during construction (remember, Dominion's line crosses both Rt. 340 and Rt. 9, in addition to many other secondary roads).
Keryn also presented her own personal concerns that a design defect in steel lattice transmission towers has been known to the industry for many years, but it appears industry has made no improvements to their design. Commissioner Pellish commented that one of the references in the abstract of a recent engineering study of the design defect that was presented to the Commissioners went all the way back to 1996. Utility engineers have been aware for at least 16 years that transmission towers are subject to failure from downburst wind, but have done nothing to change the design or reinforce their existing towers. The Commission wants to know whether Dominion's new towers are designed to withstand downburst wind. A simple "yes" won't do. Show us.
Lastly, Keryn spoke on behalf of the StopPATH WV, Inc. organization, who supports Dominion's rebuild project. However, public relations is an integral part of any major infrastructure project and Dominion has failed to provide information to the public. Public trust in utilities is at an all-time low in Jefferson County, the legacy of the PATH project that just keeps on giving. Our goal is for the community to be informed about what to expect, where to get relevant updates and information, and for Dominion to develop an ongoing relationship and dialogue with the citizens of Jefferson County, who want to see this project completed quickly, safely and as cost-effectively as possible.
Now the question is -- will Dominion step up here, or will the company continue to pretend that their project only affects those with towers on their property, and that the rest of us haven't noticed or don't care. We have and we do. The ball is in Dominion's court.