SOUTH GLENS FALLS — National Grid has dropped its $16,000 bill against the village over a broken utility pole.
“We weren’t being antagonistic,” said National Grid spokesman Nate Smith. “We have to check into it, make sure it wasn’t a guy on his lunch break driving recklessly. But there was no evidence of that.”
Originally, National Grid wanted the money for a pole on Hamilton Street. A village worker backed a payloader into the pole and broke it while picking up leaves in September 2016.
To defend its bill, National Grid itemized the labor to replace it, the cost of the pole itself and every component, going so far as to list each bolt and washer at 20 cents apiece. Village officials ignored the original claim, so the company sent increasingly angry-looking bills, labeling one a “shutoff notice” and another with “delinquent bill” in uppercase letters.
But Mayor Harry Gutheil stood his ground and refused to pay. The village’s insurance said the company would lose in court, citing a state Court of Appeals case that determined municipalities could not be sued for property damage during normal duties. Claimants would have to prove the damage was caused by reckless behavior.
Village officials were certain National Grid could not prove the village employee was acting recklessly when he accidentally backed into the pole. By law, recklessness is more than simple negligence. To be reckless, the worker must have known that backing up was likely to damage the pole, but carried on anyway.
The village’s insurance, New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal, allegedly did not contact National Grid about the claim. National Grid officials said they never heard from the insurance company.
“There was some miscommunication going on there,” said Smith, adding that sending out a bill was “standard operating procedure” in such cases.
But once Gutheil discussed the issue at a public meeting, which brought it to National Grid’s attention, a spokesman said the company would reach out to the insurance company to resolve the claim.
Six months later, the company agreed to drop its bill.
“We absorbed the cost,” Smith said.
Gutheil was pleased by the resolution.
“I’m glad that’s over,” he said.