Manitoba Hydro won’t fix broken and unsafe pole, gives homeowner 7 days to make repair or lose power

By | May 27, 2020

A man in a rural Manitoba community says the province’s power and gas utility won’t repair a broken hydro pole in his backyard, and has given him a week to fix it or his power will be shut off.

“They say it’s my responsibility. It’s my pole, that’s what they say,” said Jason Philion, who lives in Garson, Man., about 40 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Philion says he was working on his back deck last Thursday when a tree fell on some power lines. Minutes later, he heard a loud cracking sound and watched as a pole that was attached to the lines buckled and snapped at the base. He immediately called Manitoba Hydro.

“The Hydro guy shows up, comes, he looks at it, he goes, ‘Oh that’s bad,'” said Philion.

The worker helped him cut the tree off the power lines and secure the pole to his deck to keep it from toppling over completely.

But adding insult to injury, Philion says he was told the damaged pole is unsafe, and was given seven days to get it fixed or his power would be shut off.

“Just as he’s getting his truck to leave, he’s driving on the grass and rolls the window [down] and goes, ‘Oh by the way you’re gonna have a timeline to do this because it’s dangerous,’ and he leaves. And I’m standing there looking at him, like, ‘So you’re leaving it like this?'” said Philion.

Manitoba Hydro says it helped the property owner remove a tree that had fallen on some power lines, which required a brief outage to the immediate neighbours, and then temporarily secured the pole with a strap so the customer had service. (Submitted by Jason Philion)

Philion called a couple of electricians. They came to look at the pole and told him it belongs to Manitoba Hydro, he says.

“They don’t want to touch it,” said Philion. “This is Hydro’s stuff. Their meter.”  

He says the Crown corporation refused to fix it, and he eventually got an electrician to agree to do the work.

Philion borrowed a trailer and drove to Anola on Saturday to buy a replacement pole. Monday morning, he called to get a permit but it was “Hydro Monday,” and employees were on an unpaid day off work.

Jason Philion says the only place he could find a suitable replacement pole was in Anola, so on Saturday he borrowed a trailer to go and pick it up. He now needs a permit from Manitoba Hydro so that an electrician can come and do the work. (John Einerson/CBC)

“So now I’ve only got Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — three days to get someone to dig a hole, get the pole in, get Hydro guys down here, make arrangements for them to be here to switch all this over,” said Philion.

“They have to have a crew standing here watching this guy touch their stuff. That’s their procedure. Does this make any sense?” he said, adding the pole kept swinging in the wind even after he and the utility worker tied it to the deck. He later nailed some wood boards to it and anchored them to the ground.

‘It’s a customer-owned pole’: Hydro

Manitoba Hydro says while the overhead wires and the electric meter are its property, the pole belongs to the homeowner.

“It’s a customer-owned pole and the customer’s responsibility to fix it by hiring a qualified electrician and completing the work under the Manitoba Electrical Code,” said Bruce Owen, the company’s media relations officer.

Despite that, Owen says Manitoba Hydro tries to work with customers in these types of situations.

“We temporarily secured the pole to maintain service and proper line clearances in the backyard and give the customer enough time to hire an electrician and get a permit. The customer knew this was a temporary fix and that it’s his responsibility to get it permanently repaired,” he said.

Owen says the situation would be the same if you lived in a city and a tree in your backyard fell on a power line, ripping out a pole in your back lane.

“As the homeowner, it’s your responsibility to get it fixed,” said Owen.

He said Manitoba Hydro would come to your home to disconnect the power, but the homeowner would have to get an arborist to remove the tree, and an electrician to reconnect the lines to the pole.

“Once that’s done, it has to be checked by an electrical inspector. Once the inspector gives the OK, Manitoba Hydro comes back and reconnects the line to the pole to restore power to your house,” said Owen.

Philion says the pole was already on the property when he and his wife moved into their home in 2006. In 2008, Manitoba Hydro sent someone to drill holes in the bottom of it to fill it with fungicide. He believes that work is what compromised the stability of the pole, because that’s where it snapped after the tree fell on the wires last week.

Owen says the work was part of the utility’s integrated pole maintenance program, in which wood poles are checked for premature rot, insect infestation or other damage. 

Philion says he was told the work will cost $2,000. He’s already sold his children’s outdoor play structure to try and come up with the money to pay for it.

“I just want my yard to be safe.”

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