Placid mayor: Rails in way of electric improvements

Lake Placid village Mayor Craig Randall (Photo provided by Craig Randall)

LAKE PLACID — A new variable has entered the enduring rail-trail debate as this village’s mayor says the lingering rails and ties on the right of way through which this village’s electric supply feeds are in the way of electric improvements and fixes.

Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall said in the event of a downed or damaged power line or pole deep in a remote location of the 115-kilovolt line that feeds the village, it is not possible for National Grid to transport the needed equipment and vehicles in a timely manner.

“From a public standpoint,” Randall said, “I would say that we would be better served in this particular issue if the rails were not there.

“The removal of those rails, if it were to happen, would make it much, much more accessible. So access is still a problem we are discussing. Obviously if the rails were to go away, the track bed that would be left behind is quite heavy enough to accommodate the equipment they need to get in there. Otherwise, you’d have the same situation that we had back in February when they had to wait until morning and go in by foot and literally climb that pole physically to make the repairs.

Randall said the topic of the rails getting in the way of repairs during potential outages was one of several issues discussed at a meeting last week between officials from the village, town of North Elba, state Olympic Regional Development Authority and National Grid, among others. This was a follow-up meeting with the Syracuse-based utilities company during a summer where the village and its electric department — under the new leadership of superintendent Kimball Daby — have increased communication and correspondence with National Grid.

“That is the topic that they [National Grid] made us aware of,” Randall said. “And I think we all understand the issue at this point.

“There may be a solution, depending on the future of that recreation path, but we don’t know when or even probably if, because it’s all up to a judge. So we are waiting on that.”

Randall is referring to the lawsuit filed more than a year ago by the Adirondack Rail Preservation Society, which operates seasonal tourist trains under the Adirondack Scenic Railroad name. The lawsuit has delayed the state ripping up the tracks between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake in order to build a multi-use recreational trail instead.

Randall and Trustee Peter Holderied provided further context of the kinds of pending problems existing on the right of way through which the electric line travels into Lake Placid. Holderied said one pole is completely rotten and another has extensive damage due to woodpeckers.

“The [rotten] pole is split,” Holderied said. “So if that comes down on the transmission lines, we’d have an immediate outage. And even today, summer, it’s a beautiful day, they would have to walk the line and climb the pole and remove the pole just like they did last winter. Of course, it would go faster because it’s summer, but it’d still be a long, long outage.”

“They gave that the impression they could repair that tomorrow if they could get to it,” he added, “But they can’t, because of the tracks.”

Holderied added that the existence of the tracks is getting in the way of transporting the proper vehicles to the remote locations needed to set new poles.

Randall said National Grid’s current objective is to eliminate as many “high risk” trees in the right-of-way as possible. He said the company was typically executing its maintenance of the trees on the right-of-way in either five- or 10-year rolling schedules.

All of this increased activity this summer from National Grid comes after a power outage cut electricity to the village for nearly 20 hours in February. Then again in June, the village lost power during a busy Sunday afternoon and evening of events.