The letter from John Widdows (“With so many outages, time to look for alternative to above-ground power lines,” Jan. 1) bears consideration.

Twenty years ago I was surprised when lights came on at night across a broad panorama of southern France, as there were no power lines along the roads, on the farms, nor vineyards, nor pastures.

I learned that the power company had done a study and concluded that the payback time for putting the lines underground was 20 years – quite reasonable, considering the expenses and human suffering avoided even in that mild climate.

Unfortunately, in this country the economics is distorted by Federal Emergency Management Agency and federal disaster relief funds, which take care of the storm damage done.

So the so-called private companies have, for the last eight or 10 years or so, when they fired their hired arborists and took over that work themselves, stopped worrying about it. Look at the license plates or the cab doors of the trucks that restore your power, and talk to the men who do the job.

In our area, one company has a remarkably clean record compared to another over the past few years of power outages, so it may be that somewhere business is using proper analysis and reasonably long-term thinking as well as responsibility to guide it.

Still, this is being done with prophylactic limb management along power lines, which still seems less certain and more labor-intensive than putting them underground to begin with.

Lyman A. Page

Kennebunkport