Power outages in the remote Somerset County town of Jackman have increased over the last five years, but the problem isn’t as bad as some residents have made it out to be, according to Central Maine Power.

From 2013 to 2017, the number of outages on the two circuits serving Jackman increased from 51 in 2013 to 62 in 2017 – a 21 percent increase, according to a document recently filed by CMP with the Maine Public Utilities Commission. That outpaces a roughly 1 percent increase across CMP’s entire service area in the same time frame.

CMP is urging the PUC to not investigate a complaint by residents in Jackman about declining service.

The company said this week the increase is likely due to rain, wind or snow causing tree limbs to fall on power lines, and that the problem is not as bad as it has been portrayed by a group of residents who earlier this month filed a complaint with the PUC urging it to investigate lengthy outages and unreliable service from CMP.

The complaint, filed Dec. 13 by a group of residents led by Darien Sawyer, a local reverend, said CMP outages are “putting elderly citizens, shut-ins and families of young children at risk during cold weather.”

And while a handful of residents have stepped forward with stories about poor service from CMP, the group also acknowledged in another letter this week that their claim of a 275 percent increase in outages is based on the experience of just four customers, though they are working to gather more comprehensive data.

The Somerset County town of about 860 people is about 20 miles from the Canadian border and on the fringes of the utility’s coverage area.

“On multiple occasions, CMP employees have answered our complaints with statements about how far away we are from their grid and how few customers there are to offset investment in what’s needed,” Sawyer wrote in a response to CMP’s request the PUC dismiss the complaint. “The bottom line is that CMP sees dollar signs attached to resolving the issues.”

The company in its response acknowledged there are challenges to serving the Jackman area because of its remoteness, but also took issue with some of the claims made by the group.

A possible explanation for the increase in Jackman is the number of trees, said CMP spokeswoman Catherine Hartnett.

“The same wind storm does potentially more damage in Jackman because there are more trees and that will affect the number of power outages,” she said.

The residents group claimed there was an increase from four outages in 2013 to 11 in 2017 – an increase of 275 percent – for four customers.

CMP, meanwhile, wrote that Jackman is still served from Harris Station, as it has for over 50 years, and the company is adequately staffed and equipped.

It would be time-consuming and difficult for the company to provide backup electricity through Canada, CMP said, and providing backup through the town of Rockwood, also at the end of a long distribution line, would pose similar challenges and may not provide any benefit.

Finally, the company also stated it is working on long-term plans to improve service in the area, including the possibility of installing a generator to feed Jackman.

The complaint comes about 20 years after the commission ruled in 1996 that CMP’s service to the Jackman region was “unreasonable and inadequate” and required the company to file a long-term plan to improve quality of service in the area.

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

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