Once we had our land cleared and septic system installed, we thought our progress would move quickly. We were wrong. Instead we experienced some frustrating delays in trying to get electric to our property. Finally, however, we’re installing utilites on our homestead. And it’s about time!
A Month-Long Battle
Our plan, once we had our land cleared and septic system installed, was to get the electric and water utilities set up within a week or two thereafter. Instead we spent an entire month battling the Electric Cooperative over easement issues. As a result, our homesteading progress fell months behind schedule.
Long story short, although the electric company had been quick to take our deposit, they refused to move forward on installing the necessary poles to our property without a neighbor’s notarized permission for easement. They needed to place one more pole on his property to connect to the existing pole he had in order to reach our property.
The neighbor had agreed verbally a few months prior to allow the additional pole to be placed on his property. But he failed to follow through on providing the legal written document he repeatedly assured us he would sign. Finally he stopped communicating with us at all.
Bottom line: the electric company was allowing one member of its cooperative to deny us access to the same electric service he enjoyed. We could not believe this was legally acceptable!
We spent a few weeks trying to resolve the issue through the chain of command at the electric company, but that led to nothing but more frustration. We got nowhere until we sought legal representation and filed a formal complaint with the state.
While a local Tennessee attorney (who was equally appalled by our situation) worked to convince the neighbor to notarize the easement form, I happened to find something interesting in the Electric Cooperative’s By Laws. It stated clearly that any member of the co-op, by using its electric services, automatically grants easement to themselves and others for the same.
You can bet my next call was to the electric co-op’s legal counsel. Although I braced for an argument, once I stated our issue and quoted the By-Laws, he agreed with me that we were not being treated properly. At long last someone with authority within the electric cooperative was going to get things moving forward for us!
Ironically, the very same day, our attorney called to inform us she had finally received the notarized easement – the piece of paper that would have prevented this entire nightmare – from our neighbor.
Installing Our Homestead Utilities – Finally!
With warm summer weather quickly fading away, we were finally able to make a return trip to our property in August and run the utilities to our property. This turned out to be a feat of coordination as we needed the excavating team, an electrical contractor, and the electric company (who now seriously disliked us!) all on the property on the same day. Once again Benton Tucker of Tucker Farms LLC came to our rescue and made it happen.
On installation day, Benton once again got busy with his crew to start digging the trenches needed to run the utility lines across the property. At the same time, the electrical contractor was busy installing our service pedestal.
The electric company came out the same morning. Though none of them would speak to us, they did run the electric line through a 100 foot trench to our service pedestal. The trench for this was 30 inches deep and 18 inches wide. This is required in many areas per electric code and cannot be shared with other utility lines such as water or sewer.
We even lucked out that the local telecom company was able to come by while the electric trench was still open. They ran the fiber optic cable for us that will become our future internet connection.
Although we were still agitated by the unnecessary delay in acquiring our electric service, “all’s well that ends well,” as they say. And the installation itself did end well, right down to the electrical inspector’s sticker we found waiting for us the next morning.
Unlike the electric company, the water company had come out and installed our meter immediately after we applied for service. So all we had to do was run the water line across our property to have potable water for our homestead.
Thankfully we were able to have Benton dig a separate trench for our water line the same day the electric went in, saving us a lot of time and money (it’s not cheap to get big equipment to remote areas to work!). The water line trench was dug 24 inches deep so we could run our piping well below the 18-inch freeze line for our area.
For our water line, I opted to run underground 3/4 inch PEX tubing. PEX is easy to work with and is great for colder climates. Unlike PVC piping, PEX will expand about five times its size in freezing temperatures without breaking. (And you can find a complete PEX Plumbing Kit in our Homestead Store).
When we ran the water line, we also installed a 3/4 inch freeze-proof Yard Hydrant. We purchased this from a local home improvement store for our outside watering needs. I also added a brass T and extended the PEX another 10 feet to allow for our future cabin water supply and plumbing needs.
After a long day of work, it was a great moment to turn on the hydrant and get running water!