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National Grid's David LaPlante, left, Joanne DeRose and Robert Ide address the Selectmen on Wednesday night. The utility had tracked the flickering light problem to a customer in North Adams, they said.

Adams, Cheshire's Flickering Lights Mystery Solved

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Some lights in Town Hall had been strobing so much they have been shut off for weeks now. 
ADAMS, Mass. — The mystery of the flickering lights that have annoyed residents in Adams and Cheshire over the past weeks has been solved — if not completely resolved.  
Joanne DeRose, director of community and customer management for National Grid, told the Selectmen on Wednesday that the problems had been tracked to one "very large" customer in North Adams affecting others "downriver."
"I don't wanna get too technical, but there are things we call harmonics for those who are familiar with electricity and typically we like our electricity to be a nice even wave and what they're putting out into the system is like that, right?" she said, moving her hand in an rolling up and down motion. 
DeRose did not wish to identify the customer but said it did not appear to be purposeful and that "they're doing everything possible to alleviate that, they're working with us."
The Selectmen two weeks ago had requested the utility appear before the board after receiving numerous complaints over flickering lights, including in Town Hall. 
(iBerkshires had contacted National Grid on March 5 and was told it was working "to implement a solution.")
Robert Ide, also from National Grid's community management office, said the utility had also become aware of the problem when customers started calling in and at first thought they were isolated incidents. The electrical company tried switching line feeds without success. 
"But what it did do is it allowed us to identify our scope of area search. So we were able to identify that the source of the problem was coming from the Route 8 corridor and we furthered our investigation," said Ide. "We kind of pinned down it could be one of the few customers that we have in the area. So we put up what was called a recording meter at the location identified and that the customer was the key point for that." 
The customer had added on equipment and increased its load, which it had the capacity to do. DeRose said there were internal fixes that it was working on to reduce the disruption but that National Grid had not been inside to look at its equipment and was not overseeing the work.
Selectman Howard Rosenberg, an engineer, said he assumed there were filters on the higher-distribution equipment to shield other customers. 
"That's what I find is really interesting is that one customer can affect so many different people," he said.
The affects of the harmonic disruption, or "dirty power," has been intermittent and erratic in terms of times and areas affected. One customer who attended the meeting said her house had been "like a disco" the other morning while her neighbor's had not. 
Field engineer David LaPlante said the LED, or light-emitting diodes, used for bulbs are particularly sensitive to voltage fluctuations. Where incandescent light bulbs have electric current heating a filament, LEDs have a semi conductor.
"Semiconductors have a certain pass region where once you hit a certain voltage threshold, they turn off," he said. "Flickering a lot of times with LEDs can occur when that voltage threshold either drops or when you have 'dirty power' per se ...
"Especially if they're cheaper LEDs, they might not have a strong tolerance to fluctuations and therefore my flicker in the process."
Rosenberg responded that "it means also that the power company has to focus more on supplying clean power. There has to be your clean power delivered to our homes."
 "Yeah, it's changing the topology of our system and we have strategies to mitigate and reduce the situations," said LaPlante. "As we start to understand it more we're developing better practices around it associated with standards and associated with best practice for utilities."
 Selectman Joseph Nowak pointed out that a number of residents had called in electricians believing there was something wrong in their homes.
"I'm not sure how many people are saddled with a bill from an electrician because they, you know when you start seeing your lights flickering, and its just illusions of a fire or a short or something like that. So that was my main concern about this," he said.
Several other customers in attendance expressed their own concerns and complaints and what they felt was a lack of response and communication. 
DeRose said National Grid has a claims department that customers can file online here or contact or by calling 315-428-6536.
She also said customers should continue to report any flickering because it may or may not be related this particular issue.
The Selectmen pressed the utility representatives on when the problem would be resolved and what leverage the it had to ensure the customer completed with work in a reasonable timeframe.  
"Over the next few weeks, there may be again, depending on what the ultimate fixes and what needs to actually happen," DeRose said. "I can't give you a definite timeline at this point, but we are urging that this needs to be fixed as soon as possible."
When pushed on a timeframe, she said the utility did have the ability to disconnect. 
"We don't want to do that, obviously there are jobs and everything at stake," she said. "We're working as hard as we can with that. But there will be a timeline and there will be a definite ... so we just don't have that information right now."

Tags: electricity,   National Grid,   

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Adams Review Library, COA and Education Budgets

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
ADAMS, Mass. — The Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen reviewed the public services, Hoosac Valley Regional School District and McCann Technical School budgets on Tuesday. 
The workshop at the Adams Free Library was the third of four joint sessions to review the proposed $19 million fiscal 2025 budget. The first workshop covered general government, executive, finance and technology budgets; the second public works, community development and the Greylock Glen. 
The Council on Aging and library budgets have increases for wages, equipment, postage and software. The Memorial Day budget is level-funded at $1,450 for flags and for additional expenses the American Legion might have; it had been used to hire bagpipers who are no longer available. 
The COA's budget is up 6.76 percent at $241,166. This covers three full-time positions including the director and five regular per diem van drivers and three backup drivers. Savoy also contracts with the town at a cost of $10,000 a year based on the number of residents using its services. 
Director Sarah Fontaine said the governor's budget has increased the amount of funding through the Executive Office of Elder Affairs from $12 to $14 per resident age 60 or older. 
"So for Adams, based on the 2020 Census data, says we have 2,442 people 60 and older in town," she said. "So that translates to $34,188 from the state to help manage Council on Aging programs and services."
The COA hired a part-time meal site coordinator using the state funds because it was getting difficult to manage the weekday lunches for several dozen attendees, said Fontaine. "And then as we need program supplies or to pay for certain services, we tap into this grant."
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