AUGUSTA — Last summer, Buckfield’s interim Town Manager Bradley Plante said a worker from Central Maine Power visited the fire station unannounced, with the intention of shutting off its power due to what CMP said was an unpaid bill that had been paid more than 10 days earlier.

The 2022 Maine Legislature will consider a bill that would require a utility to give 60-day notice to all public safety facilities before disconnecting service.

Bradley Plante Allison Long photo

The Legislative Council, the administrative body for the state legislature, approved the bill Thursday morning on appeal after initially denying the bill last month. The council, which is made up of the leadership from both houses and both parties, determines which bills get introduced during the second and shorter legislative session.

“I put this bill forward to prevent an unintended tragedy,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham), told the Legislative Council during his appeal.

Berry listed critical equipment needed by ambulance and emergency crews that must be fully charged, such as “cardiac monitors, defibrillators, suction for airways, fluid for IV delivery, a razor to shave chest hair to put on a monitor or defibrillator pads, a radio, a heater core that keeps your diesel motors warm — that’s true for plow trucks and firetrucks, as well — an automatic CPR device, a handle for incubation, a stretcher battery and more.”

Berry added that there has been a couple of near misses.

One of those near misses occurred last June in Buckfield. Plante described what happened in a letter to the council, when a CMP worker arrived unannounced at the fire station.

“A technician from CMP showed up at the Buckfield Fire/Rescue facility and informed the fire chief he was there to disconnect the power for non-payment of the account. The chief explained he had nothing to do with paying the bills, but he’d look into it. The tech agreed to give him until 4 p.m. The chief came to the Town Office immediately,” Plante wrote.

“We contacted CMP and they claimed they attempted to contact the town to no avail. We told them a check was forwarded 10 days ago. They stated they never got it; we paid electronically to avoid having the power disconnected. The next day we received mail from CMP showing a photocopy of the check in question. The attached letter stated they did not know which account to apply the payment to (even though there was an invoice number),” added Plante, whose tenure as interim Town Manager ended in late September.

A CMP vice president disputed Plante’s version, saying its policy is to never shut power to a fire station and called the situation a “misunderstanding.”

“We had discussions with CMP Public Affairs as well as the PUC,” Plante said. “Regardless of what CMP claimed, we fortunately avoided a major incident which would have endangered the safety of the residents of Buckfield.”

Plante also told the council that this was not the first time such an situation involving CMP had occurred, pointing to a 2018 incident in Newcastle, according to a WGME report.

“It seems that CMP has still not learned its lesson, and that adding an additional notification requirement may be needed to protect public safety,” Plante added.

With six votes needed for the appeal to be successful, the Legislative Council voted 6-2 to accept bill LR 2122 into the next session. The bill was initially denied last month on a 9-1 vote.

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