To the editor:
In the Dec. 7, 2017 edition of The Central Virginian we read of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative’s plan to provide broadband service. Soon thereafter Gary Wood, CEO of CVEC, came before the Louisa County Board of Supervisors begging for $2 million to help fund the project.
According to the paper, Mr. Wood stated, “We own a bunch of power lines and cleared right-of-way so it’s a little cheaper for us.” The board later gave CVEC or their spinoff company Firefly (we can’t get a clear answer as to which one) a $500,000 tax abatement. I read that subsequently the board has given CVEC another $340,000 of CARES Act money. That money, as we all know, is just money printed by a wasteful government, money that has no backing; just additional national debt that was supposed to aid struggling citizens and businesses. CVEC is a not-for-profit electric cooperative whose mission should be to provide electricity to its members at cost. No one we have found can explain how they are mixing their money in this new venture.
In 2017, I wrote to the board and then-County Attorney Sandra Robinson informing them that neither Wood nor CVEC “owns” any right-of-way. I asked for the county attorney to protect the citizens of Louisa by stopping this illegal seizure of personal property (easements/right-of-way). Nothing was done. Instead, without any easements or legal right to do so, CVEC trespassed onto many landowners’ properties and installed their fiber-optic cables. This went on for two years in Louisa, Fluvanna, Albemarle, Buckingham, Nelson, and elsewhere. But it appears someone got “cold feet,” for at the 2020 legislative session HB 831 passed by a 91-6 margin in the House and in the Senate, 37-2-1, giving power companies the right to use existing electric easements to install for-profit internet without compensation to the landowners. Thank you Nick Freitas for voting against this. This is an ex post facto law. Can we also say unconstitutional? A lawsuit challenging the law has put Rappahannock Electric Cooperative’s plan for fiber-optic internet on hold.
I had a contract CVEC (former REC) engineer come to my house and inform me he was there to survey for the new fiber-optic. I explained to him CVEC had no easement for anything but electric power. He argued they did, without checking. In the easements there is no such language. In 1965 there was no thought of fiber-optics for internet. A nearby neighbor was paid $646.50 in 1966 for his power easement. This would equal $5,301 today. But last year one neighbor told me his family was given free internet to use their property right-of-way. Did you get free internet? Any money?
Thousands upon thousands of dollars were taken away from the landowners in CVEC territory. This does not include what is about to be taken where construction has not begun, by the unconstitutional law signed by our beloved governor. If you feel your property rights have been taken, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will get back to you on this matter.
Zion (not Zion Crossroads)