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Of X-mas trees and VELCO

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In the big scheme of things, Vermont Electric Power Company’s project to string up a new set of 345Kv transmission lines through Addison County could have been delayed another year or two without (in all likelihood) depriving consumers of an adequate supply of power. It certainly seems reasonable, therefore, to ask VELCO to work around a Middlebury Christmas tree farm during the farm’s peak season between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

To proceed with the erection of gigantic poles within the next two or three weeks, when it means that the poles would be placed right in the midst of the Werner tree farm (see story Page 1), seems like a slap in the face to a fellow Vermont business. It’s almost an affront that VELCO wouldn’t have foreseen the dilemma earlier and made the overture to avoid work there for this one five-week period.

Could they do that? Of course. The new power lines won’t be turned on for months, until, that is, the last segment of the line (which goes from Rutland to South Burlington) is installed. It would be plenty easy for the firm to simply leap-frog past the Werner’s farm and come back to install the poles post Christmas.

Alas, the firm missed a wonderful public relations opportunity. With plenty of Addison County residents already upset by the enormity of the project and by VELCO’s minimal effort to mitigate some of the most offensive blights on the landscape, here was a script that could have read like a touching Christmas story — a story of concern for another, sacrifice and corporate duty not to harm others who are far smaller and more vulnerable to economic whims.

It’s not too late. Being insensitive and out of touch is always forgiven if, at the end of the day, the offense is mitigated. It’s the Christmas season, after all, and it’d be nice if corporate America started realizing that its community relations were as important as its bottom line.

Angelo S. Lynn

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