Local family considering legal action against YVEA | CraigDailyPress.com

Local family considering legal action against YVEA

Joe Moylan

Ray Wagner stands next to his chopped power pole and disconnected electrical box. Wagner says Yampa Valley Electric Association cut his service without notice in early August.

Ray Wagner, an 87-year-old decorated World War II veteran, rounded up four of his colts on a recent day at his home in Hamilton and returned them to their pin.

A few feet away stood part of a wooden pole with a disconnected electrical box.

The pole, now about 4-feet high, was once taller, and was used as the routing point for a power line that fed into Wagner's home, shop and well-house.

But today, there is no power coming into Wagner's property, and the electrical box has been stripped of its wiring.

"It's felony theft in my opinion," said Wagner's son, Jay. "It's criminal trespassing. It's on our property. We own it. They (Yampa Valley Electric Association) did not obtain permission to come here and take it."

The Wagners, who have owned the Hamilton property since the 1950s, are in the midst of a dispute with YVEA, which removed service and equipment from the property because it had been idle since 2006.

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"My dad has been living at Sunset Meadows the last few years," Jay said. "He's been living on Social Security and a military pension that has been reduced almost annually."

Jay said his father was planning on returning to his Hamilton home because he could no longer afford rent at Sunset Meadows.

It was while moving horses and property in early August that Wagner discovered YVEA had cut power to his home.

"There has to be some law," Jay said. "There has to be some iron-clad policy that allows them to go in and steal a man's power pole and his conductor."

According to a YVEA letter sent to the Craig Daily Press, the company periodically evaluates idle or inactive services and will remove equipment if service has been disconnected for an extended period.

YVEA is removing services that have been idle for up to a year, consumer accounts manager Jim Chappell said.

"We're evaluating all of our idle services and that's just a prudent business decision," Chappell said. "You don't need to purchase new equipment when you have it sitting in the field and it's not being utilized."

Chappell also cited safety concerns associated with idle services.

"An energized line is subject to lightning and storm damage," he said. "And, if there is an outage, that is going to impact

other members."

Jay said he and his father should have received notice from YVEA before services and equipment were removed.

"We did not get a phone call, letter or any other notice from YVEA," he said.

"At 87 years old, I take care of my father. The service is in my name. I pay it. When it came time for notification, they should have contacted me."

Chappell said he was not familiar with the specifics of Wagner's account and could not comment on whether YVEA issued a notice before removing service.

"All I know is that it was an old service and it hadn't been connected in a while," Chappell said.

Jay said the explanation isn't good enough.

"I have six accounts with this company, including all of my commercial property," Jay said. "I pay almost $1,000 a month in electricity. They know me by first name and I know them all personally.

"We take it very seriously, we took it personally and we're still taking it that way. Where does YVEA have support for this type of demeaning abuse?"

Jay said he has hired attorney Ralph Cantafio to potentially litigate the matter.

"We will be entering into a lawsuit if we can find enough evidence to conclude there was no justification for their actions," Jay said. "And it won't be for money.

"I don't want their money. I don't need it. I just want them to replace the power. I want them to bring my father's livelihood back to him."

According to the YVEA letter, the company "will make service available to a removed idle service at no cost to the member, if a meter is set and the monthly facility charge continues to be paid."

Jay said even if YVEA would bring service back for free, his father would have to bring his home, shop and well house up to current electrical code.

"We estimate bringing the house up to current electrical code to cost $50,000," he said. "My father doesn't have that kind of money."

Chappell said customers can avoid service removal if they stay on top of their monthly facilities charge.

"Every consumer pays a facilities charge on their bill," Chappell said. "It's called a consumer charge. That's to cover our investments, cost of reading meters, depreciation, property taxes and maintenance on the line. If you don't pay that, then it is subject to be removed."

Chappell speculated the Wagner family cancelled service when Ray Wagner moved into Sunset Meadows, and that they were not receiving bills to cover monthly facility charges.

"We give consumers an ample amount of time to come back to us," Chappell said. "If they don't, then we will go in and remove service if we feel we can utilize the equipment somewhere else."

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com.

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