- By Grace Suizo
Western Massachusetts Electric Co.’s (WMECo) recent plans to close its headquarters in the Springfield Technology Park and its service center depot on Shelburne Road in Greenfield next year have raised concerns from first responders and local union officials about the impact on response times from WMECo in regards to safety issues, according to local paper Daily Hampshire Gazette.
The reason for the closures, Priscilla Ress, senior media relations specialist for WMECo, told Utility Fleet eNews,are due to underutilization of these facilities. The move will result in the transfer of the headquarters’ 31 office and dispatch workers to the WMECo service center at 300 Cadwell Drive, while the 25 maintenance and support workers responsible for maintaining and repairing lines throughout rural Franklin County will move to the WMECo service depot in Hadley.
The announced closures have resulted in opposition from fire chiefs and other emergency personnel due to the distance between the locations and the equipment. Workers based at the Greenfield service center respond to power outages and assist fire departments at the scene of fires and accidents, cutting power to burning houses or downed poles. Fire chiefs estimate an extra hour will be added to response times because of the time it will take WMECo workers to retrieve a bucket truck from the Hadley station.
Area legislators have joined the company’s union employees in calling on management to reconsider the move, as reported by the Gazette.
Business As Usual
Ress emphasized that business will continue as usual, including during emergency situations, when workers are allowed to take service trucks home for quicker response.
“Our first response protocol has not changed. We currently have troubleshooters and on-call supervisors with take-home vehicles — including modified bucket trucks. This provides 24/7 coverage throughout our service territory. WMECo has a distributed workforce, which means resources and personnel are sent where they are needed. During the course of business, WMECo crews are working on projects throughout our service territory. Crews are dispatched from a central location accordingly,” Ress explained to Utility Fleet eNews. “After the consolidation, there will still be WMECo crews doing work in Greenfield, and are also available to respond to any emergency. A service center is a base of operation where our trucks are parked and maintained. In emergency situations, our crews can take a bucket truck home with them.”
In advance of severe weather conditions, WMECo will also continue to stage resources in the service territory.
“When a large contingent is required to deal with storm damage and restoration, the company has locations scouted out, where crews, trailers and heavy equipment can be staged for a large scale operation — for instance, shopping malls with large parking areas, or in Greenfield, the company is staged at the local fairgrounds.”
As far as the impact on fleet operations in terms of mileage and hours logged, Ress says that WMECo will “continue to monitor the maintenance of our fleet.”
The consolidation of the Greenfield Service Center with the Hadley Service Center is slated to take place at the end of 2014. Ress said the utility will also be consolidating its corporate offices from Springfield into its East Springfield Service Center.
WMECo is a subsidiary of the Berlin, Conn.-based Northeast Utilities System, which has a total fleet count of 1,650 vehicles from Class 1-6 and is one of the largest commercial fleets in the U.S. (No. 187 on Top 300 Commercial Fleets), as well as one of the “greenest” (No. 43 on Top 50 Green Fleets).
Joanne Tucker contributed to this article.
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