Dispute over the use of PG&E poles for gunshot detectors continues

A dispute between San Francisco and PG&E over the use of the utility's poles for gunshot detectors took a new turn Tuesday following the introduction of a city resolution chastising the company for allegedly blocking the installation.

PG&E officials say they are required to recoup the cost for aiding the device installation, but Supervisor David Campos, who introduced the resolution, claims the utility was not being totally truthful when it made that statement.

“PG&E has the option of absorbing the costs of installation the way other utilities have. Given PG&E's profits, we don't believe it's too much to ask PG&E to help us improve public safety through a minor financial investment,” Campos said in a statement to The San Francisco Examiner about the device, which locates gunshots for police.

According to an email to Campos' staff, California Public Utilities Commission spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said PG&E can request the cost be absorbed through ratepayer funds.

“The utility is required to charge a government entity, like any customer, for the cost of installing, engineering, and providing electricity to these devices,” Prosper wrote in the email. “If PG&E wanted to use ratepayer funds to install the devices, (as opposed to charging the city), the process is that PG&E would need to submit an Advice Letter to the CPUC requesting such, and the CPUC would review the details and make sure there is no ratepayer harm.”

While that may be true, PG&E spokesman Jason King said, the utility doesn't think giving SST, the maker of ShotSpotter, a pass on the costs would be a good idea in this case.

“We don't believe it would be a good precedent for us to waive this tariff for a for-profit company,” he said, noting that SST is required in the installation contract to pay the fee requested by PG&E.

In a previous story about the issue, PG&E said it is required by the CPUC to recoup the $1,500 cost per installation of ShotSpotters on its poles.

“We are required by [the] CPUC to recover those costs from The City,” King said.

The City still has yet to place 35 ShotSpotters in its effort to expand the program launched in 2008. Campos claims those efforts are being blocked by a greedy PG&E.

But King said the holdup is on The City and SST's side. The City, King said, has yet to sign a contract dictating the procedures for safely placing the ShotSpotters, and SST has yet to pay the upfront fee for the installation.

SST did not return a call for comment.

No vote was taken on the resolution.

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