October 9, 2008

St. Regis Mohawks move closer to municipal power


Mohawks would pay National Grid $4.1 million for equipment, help

AKWESASNE -- The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe is closer to forming its own municipal-power system by finalizing a new franchise agreement with National Grid.

The Tribal Council has negotiated with the company for three years to obtain the right to opt out of its National Grid service if it chooses to create its own electrical-power system.

The tribe would pay about $4.1 million for the poles, lines and equipment National Grid has on the reservation. That figure would be recalculated once the tribe actually decides to leave the system.

Tribal Council chiefs have called a special community meeting for 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, in the Senior Center to review all the franchise-agreement terms.

National Grid also agreed to help the tribe for two years if it establishes a municipal-power system.

"There is also a provision to train up to three community members as linemen," Chief Barbara Lazore said in a news release.

"These will be important positions if we decide to establish our own electrical utility."

Three to five additional jobs could also be created, and National Grid would assist with worker training through a separate agreement with the tribe.

Chief James Ransom said the new agreement would also allow Akwesasne faster development of its cable, fiber-optic and other telecommunication systems.

The agreement provides the tribe with about $71,000 a year in franchise payments from the company for the right-of-way to reach the system's poles, lines and equipment.

"We also included a provision so that community members will not be charged state sales tax for services provided within our territory," said Chief Monica Jacobs.

"These taxes should never have been charged, and this agreement corrects that."

Up until now, each household has had to negotiate with National Grid to have sales-tax charges removed from its bills, since taxes cannot be charged on American Indian territory.