Bacon Bits: Rails, Roads, Hurricanes and Rainbows

Still off the tracks. Despite promising efforts by top-level management, the Washington Metro corporate culture is still dysfunctional. An audit of $1.9 million in blanket purchase agreements found missing and incomplete documents, reports the Washington Times.

“Auditors found that Metro employees failed to record $845,000 as BPAs in their accounting software, a problem the inspector general attributed to poor controls and lack of staff training,” the newspaper reports. “As a result, $1.8 million of the $1.9 million sampled contained internal control issues.”

Long and winding road. Southwest Virginia’s twisty, windy roads have been long considered a barrier to economic development because they are so inhospitable to commercial trucking. But local promoters in Tazewell County have turned Route 16 into a tourist magnet. The road, dubbed “Back of the Dragon,” provides gut-wrenching turns and spectacular vistas. Last year an estimated 60,000 motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts passed through the nearby 4,240-person town of Tazewell.

Chris Cannon, executive director of Friends of Southwest Virginia, told the New York Times: “We focus on natural and cultural assets” rather than coal, tobacco and lumber. The region has a bluegrass heritage trail, a crafts collective, and outdoor activities like ATV, riding, hiking, mountain biking, and river running. “We as a region are trying to diversify.”

Resiliency reminder. Former Hurricane Michael was only a tropical storm by the time it barreled through Virginia, but it still caused havoc. Some 585,000 customers in Dominion Energy’s Virginia and North Carolina service territory lost their electric power. As of 7 a.m. Friday, nearly 450,000 still had lights out. reported Dominion in a press release this morning:

Early reports of damage include broken poles, cross arms and downed wire in many locations, as well as transmission lines impacted due to tree damage. There were multiple reports of tornadoes within our service territory. In Northern Neck, a tornado touched down and damaged a Dominion Energy substation.

I hope Dominion is keeping good numbers. Legislators and the public will want an after-action report, with a particular focus on the efficacy of the utility’s undergrounding program. How many underground lines experienced disruption compared to the number that would have been predicted before the lines were buried? How much time did Dominion’s repair teams save as a consequence, and how many customer-hours of electric outages were avoided?

Who’s got the brightest rainbow? The city of Richmond scored higher on the Municipal Equality Index, a scorecard measuring municipal policies regarding the LGBTQ community, than the People’s Republic of Arlington and the People’s Republic of Charlottesville — and Mayor Levar Stoney is darn proud of it. “I am delighted that Richmond is able to progress at this level,” said Stoney in a recent press release drawing attention to the ranking.

“Diversity and inclusion are … cornerstones for attracting and retaining residents, top talent, and industry,” wrote Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” in a letter published in the MEI study. “Cities that do not guarantee equal rights to LGBTQ send a strong unwelcoming message to potential visitors, residents, and investors, stymying their potential for economic advancement. In short, many businesses and top talent consider LGBTQ discrimination a deal breaker. … It pays to prioritize inclusion.”

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3 responses to “Bacon Bits: Rails, Roads, Hurricanes and Rainbows

  1. “Legislators and the public will want an after-action report, with a particular focus on the efficacy of the utility’s undergrounding program. How many underground lines experienced disruption compared to the number that would have been predicted before the lines were buried? How much time did Dominion’s repair teams save as a consequence, and how many customer-hours of electric outages were avoided?”

    These are all good questions and should be asked by the regulator to determine the cost-effectiveness of the investment in undergrounding the lines.

    But it should be made clear that any savings that are accruing from fewer repairs, avoided tree trimming, etc. are flowing to the utility and its shareholders and not to its customers. The current rates have values built into them for these expenses and money will continue to be recovered from ratepayers based on the old assumptions until rates and the actual recovery versus the allowed return is reviewed on a regular basis again. The current law could postpone this from happening until 2028.

  2. The subdivision we live in had underground lines put it when it was first created 40+ years ago and we paid extra for the lot because if had underground utilities and a state maintained road compared to less expensive subdivisions.

    We still lose power but it’s due to lines taken down on the Byrd Era secondary road which they cannot bury the cable unless they purchase right-of-way – there’s not even room for a shoulder or modern standard ditch. That’s the way much of the VDOT secondary system is. That’s what you’d have to bury. Burying cable in older existing subdivisions won’t fix the problem and that’s why Dominion does not want that program judged for ROI. The main feeder/distribution lines in our neck of the woods are 300 feet wide corridors with the poles going up 80 feet or more – they almost never get affected by downed trees – even during high winds – it’s the lines that run down our secondary roads and my suspects are that getting the right-of-way would be exceptionally expensive and that cost should be
    allocated to the folks who will benefit. Otherwise, we’re going to have taxpayers subsidize SOME folks and when their turn comes – those that got their upgrades will oppose it for others… as “too costly”.

  3. Ah yes the side road up to Tazewell. My sister used to live there, pre-GPS days, and one time I used a map to pick a quicker route. I forgot the Dramamine though…holy mackerel yes indeed quite a drive.

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