240V - working hot?

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Old 03-19-09, 04:37 PM
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240V - working hot?

I may have to have my big-old, main 100-A, fused disconnect replaced hot. Either that, or have the utility pull the meter, which will trigger my having to spend $thousands to upgrade my 150' underground service to their current standards.

The 60-year-old service is fine, but it is direct buried - conduit is now required. (The utility does not require upgrading unless the meter is pulled at the owner's request. Then, they would notify me in writing that I have 60 days to upgrade.)

So, my question, would an experienced electrician likely be able to safely do the work hot? I know that I don't have the skill to do it.
Doug
 
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Old 03-19-09, 04:52 PM
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Skill is not the issue, an IQ of 30 would help. No one that I know would be fool enough to work on 240V @ 400 A, which is what most homes have for supply from the transformer. You only get one oopppps from that. Yes, you may have to upgrade to current code, but it is in your best interest to do it right.

This is a DIY forum, and most states will let the live in homeowner do their own electrical work, but IT MUST STILL MEET LOCAL CODE, and be inspected. Not doing it right can be deadly and/or expensive.
 
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Old 03-19-09, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Just Bill View Post
Skill is not the issue, an IQ of 30 would help. No one that I know would be fool enough to work on 240V @ 400 A, which is what most homes have for supply from the transformer. You only get one oopppps from that. Yes, you may have to upgrade to current code, but it is in your best interest to do it right.

This is a DIY forum, and most states will let the live in homeowner do their own electrical work, but IT MUST STILL MEET LOCAL CODE, and be inspected. Not doing it right can be deadly and/or expensive.
Well, my IQ is at least 30.

There is no applicable requirement that my service be inspected or that it be upgraded to current local code.

Most industries have procedures in place for working hot at voltages and available currents far in excess of mine.

Thanks, anyway.
Doug
 
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Old 03-19-09, 05:27 PM
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With a "60-year-old service ----- direct buried" I would be worried that it may be near it's end. And things like this usually have a habit of failing when they are most inconvenient. You have the need and opportunity to make the upgrade, so worth considering. I'm not in your shoes, but with insurance companies looking for any way to place the blame on someone else I would leave as few doors open as possible.

Bud
 
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Old 03-19-09, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by gilmorrie View Post
I may have to have my big-old, main 100-A, fused disconnect replaced hot. Either that, or have the utility pull the meter, which will trigger my having to spend $thousands to upgrade my 150' underground service to their current standards.

The 60-year-old service is fine, but it is direct buried - conduit is now required. (The utility does not require upgrading unless the meter is pulled at the owner's request. Then, they would notify me in writing that I have 60 days to upgrade.)

So, my question, would an experienced electrician likely be able to safely do the work hot? I know that I don't have the skill to do it.
Doug
Myself I useally don't work hot unless specal situation called for. { of course I am allready trained to work on hot system with much higher voltage but I will leave the matter out of here for safety reason }

For that set up what you have there the safest way is have the POCO cut off the lateral { underground run } to your meter and some of the meter socket is pretty much end of the life and 60 years you have there is plenty long and It will be wise to pony up and get new lateral run setup.

Talk to the POCO to see where they stand on this matter.

I allready see few underground cable or conductors failed even relitive new one like few years old and they do fail as well.

Merci,Marc
 
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Old 03-19-09, 06:08 PM
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Here the PoCo doesn't charge for drops from the pole. Assuming your home owners association or AHJ doesn't require a lateral have you considered going to a drop instead.
 
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Old 03-19-09, 06:19 PM
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Along with the other advise and warning given by others, what you propose does not meedt the OSHA requirement to be worked hot.

Will your power company allow just a sleeve to be installed as the service comes out of the ground?
 

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Old 03-19-09, 06:39 PM
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Not that Im suggesting it as a method, but Im curious what the fine or charges is if the little security chain/tag on the meter is missing or broken.. Do they automatically assume you were stealing power and set some high fine ?
 
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Old 03-19-09, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by DaveC72 View Post
Not that Im suggesting it as a method, but Im curious what the fine or charges is if the little security chain/tag on the meter is missing or broken.. Do they automatically assume you were stealing power and set some high fine ?
In my area if you have problems with the main the electric company will pull the meter while you fix it and install it after you're done free of charge as long as the problem has to do with the wire or breaker. Have you asked anyone about it yet?

Jim Beer 4U2
 

Last edited by pcboss; 03-19-09 at 07:56 PM. Reason: removed info about meter seal tampering
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Old 03-19-09, 08:41 PM
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Thanks, all. I'll try to reply to some of the suggestions and comments.

Yes, I most certainly have talked to our local municipal utility, and they are completely aware of my situation. They will be happy to pull the meter, and re-install it - but that will also trigger their requirement that I upgrade the underground service to be in pipe. Until such time as I request them to pull the meter, they won't ask for the upgrade. Sounds a little strange and bureaucratic, but whatever.

Yes, I could abandon my underground service, and the utility would put in an overhead service at their cost (up to a weather head provided by me). That would require two poles in my yard, which I don't really want.

The meter isn't 60 years old - it's digital. If the utility were to replace the meter for their own reasons, that would not trigger upgrading. It's only for "owner-requested" meter pulls.

I can't install a "sleave" or do other work on the underground service to the meter base without working it hot, as well. And the service is connected to the meter itself, which is sealed and under the utility's jurisdiction.

I'm unsure what is involved in meeting the "OSHA requirement" for working hot. But industrial facilities frequently work hot (at much higher voltages than 240V) to avoid costly shutdowns. (If money were no object, no job would need to be worked hot, right?) By having a qualified electrician work hot, I would save several thousand dollars.

As far as having the utility cut off the power to their overhead feed to my underground service, I can say with certaintly that would be out of the question. It's either have them pull the meter (and then have to pay $thousands for the upgrade) or work hot.

There is no homeowners' association or AHJ. It's just the utility. There are no electrical codes here - zero, nada. No inspections are required past the meter or anywhere inside the house, even for new construction. (May sound strange to those of you living in metropolitan areas, but much of the U.S. is like this.)

There is no licensing of electricians or electrical contractors in Illinois (except in big cities, notably Chicago). This is common in some other states, too.

As far as the risk of failure of my 60-year-old underground service: I guess that's a risk I would have to be willing to take. If it were to fail, the utility would come right out and install a temporary service, in plastic pipe, laying on the ground - all at their expense - until I got the service replaced. I asked, "What if it's Christmas Day, and the temperature is -20? How long will it take?" They said it would be done on an emergency basis, and shouldn't take more than a few hours. Good enough for me.

My electrical contractor says that my underground service is rubber insulated with a fabric sheath. Based on his experience, it should last indefinitely. He sees no technical reason to replace it. And, if the service were in plastic pipe, instead of direct buried, it might help protect against dig-ins, but nobody is going to be digging on my property without my knowledge or approval.

I guess my next step, in the absence of a better idea, is to ask my electrical contractor if he can safely work the job hot. I will offer to pay for a second man and whatever protective measures are warranted.
Doug
 

Last edited by gilmorrie; 03-19-09 at 09:21 PM.
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Old 03-19-09, 09:05 PM
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I guess my next step, in the absence of a better idea, is to ask my electrical contractor if he can safely work the job hot.
Doug
That would be the way to go. I urge you to check that out before anything else.
 
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Old 03-19-09, 09:14 PM
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Better off to ask him if he can 'legally' work on it hot (in addition to safely, as in 'could do it').. not sure the laws down there, but up here when you hire someone (contract) to do work for you, *you* are also liable for any accidents etc that happen to him or the property etc. Pleading ignorance usually doesnt work.

I guess if the meter isnt going to accidentally fall out and kill the power to the panel.. then what about that killing the line fuse end (feed end) of the buried service ? If you had to say dig some holes for a fence post along the line path, woudnt it be possible that you might like the line lifted for safety reasons ? Maybe this would trigger the same 'inspection' thing as pulling the other (meter) end of the service anyhow.. not sure. Just a thought..
 
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Old 03-20-09, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by DaveC72 View Post
I guess if the meter isnt going to accidentally fall out and kill the power to the panel.. then what about that killing the line fuse end (feed end) of the buried service ?
That's an interesting idea. However, there is no line fuse dedicated to my service. My underground service is fed from an overhead distribution line, and comes from a pole-mounted xfmr that feeds a number of houses, not just mine.

Except for my house's service, everything in the neighborhood is overhead.
Doug
 
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Old 03-20-09, 09:55 AM
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Dave wasn't necessarily talking about a fuse. Worth a try but they may just tell you to get a utility marking crew. I know people who used tree trimming as an excuse for disconnecting a drop.
 
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Old 03-20-09, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by ray2047 View Post
Dave wasn't necessarily talking about a fuse. Worth a try but they may just tell you to get a utility marking crew. I know people who used tree trimming as an excuse for disconnecting a drop.
Thanks for the tree-trimming idea, which might possibly work. But the problem is that disconnecting my underground service from the line really wouldn't help trimming the tree that is growing up near the pole - that would require de-energizing the overhead line that serves a number of customers besides me.

The post-hole digging idea wouldn't work, though. The utility will gladly come out and mark the service for me.

But, that gives me another idea. I strongly suspect that my underground service is direct buried (which is the main issue that would require me to replace it if they pull the meter for me). But to confirm that, I'd need to dig some of it up to inspect it, right? And for safety, I'd need to have my service disconnected out at the pole!

While I'm hand digging (with the utility crew watching), my electrician, with his truck parked around in back out of sight, is in my house, ready to start work as soon as he sees me start digging, which is his sign that it's clear.
Doug
 
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Old 03-20-09, 01:08 PM
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Might be worth a call to the state Public Utilities Commission to see if they think the municipal utility's requirement is reasonable and lawful.

Regarding the locating, the locator service is free, and you don't need much of a reason besides landscaping. Get it all marked, dig carefully, and see what you've got. I hand-dug down to my underground gas line and electric feed based on the locator markings without damaging anything. Of course my stuff is no older than about 20 years, so it's in very good shape.
 
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Old 03-20-09, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by ArgMeMatey View Post
Might be worth a call to the state Public Utilities Commission to see if they think the municipal utility's requirement is reasonable and lawful.
In Illinois, the utility regulatory commission is called the Illinois Commerce Commission. But, anyway, municipal utilities are not regulated by the ICC or any other body. Well, except the City Council, which I wouldn't waste my time with.

The City's theory is that my underground service is protected only by the City's fuse on its xfmr primary, so they have a right to establish the rules (even though the underground service is technically owned by me).

There is one other possibility. If I install a new meter base out by the street, near the pole, then the utility no longer can have a say about my underground service. But, they will insist that I put a main breaker right at the meter (on the load side). Not a biggy, I guess.

The City claims jurisdiction to the first disconnect on the load side of the meter. They claim the fire department needs to rely on the first disconnect to shut off power to the house. And, proper operation of my main breaker protects their system, not just mine.

I'd love to rub the City's nose in all their obvious distribution system violations of the National Electric Safety Code (NESC). That and $3.75 would get me a small coffee at Starbucks.
Doug
 
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Old 03-20-09, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by gilmorrie View Post
If I install a new meter base out by the street, near the pole, then the utility no longer can have a say about my underground service. But, they will insist that I put a main breaker right at the meter (on the load side). Not a biggy, I guess.
Unfortunately, you'll then need a four-wire feeder to the main panel at the house with separate ground and neutral unless they're willing to allow the three-wire feeder.

Your best shot is probably to try to find a contractor who's willing to work on it live; you might be able to find someone who will do it. Given what you've described, I wouldn't do it. It doesn't meet OSHA standards for working live, and it's potentially a way to circumvent the permit process which could put the contractor's license and reputation with the local authority on the line. Honestly, I would be a little suspect of the guy you find who is willing to work it live.

I do sympathize with you for having to put up with the seemingly stupid rules of the local authority, but a contractor has a lot to lose by breaking them.
 
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Old 03-20-09, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by ibpooks View Post
Unfortunately, you'll then need a four-wire feeder to the main panel at the house with separate ground and neutral unless they're willing to allow the three-wire feeder.
No, the point is that if the meter, along with a main breaker, were out at the street, I could continue to use my existing underground service - or any other kind of service of my choosing. (The suggestion for this option came from none other than the utility's distribution superintendent - and my electrician confirms that he has done exactly that for other, similar situations.)

The utility couldn't care less what I do after the main disconnect (that would be installed on the load side out at the meter). And, there are no electrical codes here, so the AHJ for everything beyond that disconnect is...uh...ME!
Doug
 
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Old 03-20-09, 06:44 PM
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Maybe this would fit the bill:

http://www.milbankmfg.com/products/C...DF/5706TTF.pdf
 
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Old 03-20-09, 07:01 PM
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Had a little trouble downloading your link. But, Yes, that is the concept. Except that my underground service is 100A, not 200A.

I would have a vertical-type, free-standing meter base, with a ckt breaker mounted in a weather-proof box under the meter. Piece of cake.

One potential drawback to putting the meter out at the utility's end of my 150' underground service: I will pay, instead of the utility, for the losses in the service line. I haven't calculated, but maybe not much cost per year - but over time, could be significant.
Doug
 

Last edited by gilmorrie; 03-20-09 at 07:35 PM.
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Old 03-20-09, 07:46 PM
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I cannot believe what I am reading here.
Replacing a disconnect with a hot lateral has got to be one of the most stupid things I have ever heard of in 30 years in this business.
I sympathize with the costs that may be involved if the meter is pulled but the potential to lose a human life should be considered here.
Yes, work is performed hot in some settings with the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and the proper procedures in place but this would not be the case here.
If you find someone to change the disconnect hot, I can only hope that the AHJ catches him (her) and they lose their license on the grounds of stupidity.
It outrages me that anyone would give advice in a forum such as this concerning such blatantly unsafe pratices.
 
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Old 03-20-09, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by dezwit View Post
Replacing a disconnect with a hot lateral has got to be one of the most stupid things I have ever heard of in 30 years in this business.
If you find someone to change the disconnect hot, I can only hope that the AHJ catches him (her) and they lose their license on the grounds of stupidity.
Lose what license? Electricians are not licensed in this state, like many other states. Sorry about that.

Who do you think the AHJ is? Like much of the U.S., we have no electrical codes here. I am the AHJ for my house. Sorry about that, too.

There are many U.S. electrical facilities, with much higher voltages than 240V, that are safely worked hot every minute, hour, and day. Are they all "stupid" as you say?

Where has your 30-years of experience been?
Doug
 
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Old 03-20-09, 09:44 PM
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Originally Posted by gilmorrie View Post
maybe not much cost per year - but over time, could be significant.
If the conductors are well-sized, then the losses shouldn't be too much. Perhaps 2-3% at max load; far less than 1% at typical loads.

Given that this is a sanctioned action by the power company and there's no AHJ to disagree, I think this option sounds like the best one. In my opinion it's a far better solution than trying to work the meter can live.

There are many U.S. electrical facilities, with much higher voltages than 240V, that are safely worked hot every minute, hour, and day. Are they all "stupid" as you say?
The biggest difference is that the residential equipment doesn't have adequate working space. Live work on commercial equipment and power distribution systems is done either in open air or in much larger enclosures which substantially reduce the chance of an accidental short.
 
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Old 03-21-09, 06:46 AM
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The spacings in the enclosure is a good point. Even if you did find a trained electrician with the proper PPE (class-0 gloves with matching leathers over, some sort of face sheild and flash clothing), working with those gloves makes things more fumble fingers. Then there's the issue of trying to navigate the panel off of the hot wires, and getting the new one over them.

What happens if he shorts/grounds a conductor. At the least there's going to be a serious arc flash. Providing that doesnt injure/kill the worker, what happens to the existing (old) wires in the ground with that inrush of current from the transformer. Possible that the transformer could get cooked too.

So, worst case is you kill the worker, cook your underground cable and fry the hydro util's transformer (and hope that doesnt in turn burn down a neighbour's house).. lol

Probably time to move to mexico then.

Im liking some of these other ideas, like meter out at the pole etc.
 
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Old 03-21-09, 08:15 AM
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I am a licensed master electrician in 3 states and I own a contracting firm in Florida.
My background is primarily in industrial and commercial installations with a smattering of residential.
I have been around the block a few times but won't say that I have seen it all.
That being said, changing out a hot 100 amp disconnect is still a bad idea and an invitation to disaster.
Playing with electricity is not for amateurs.
 
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Old 03-21-09, 05:48 PM
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Far be it for me to question, but......

Why are you changing the disconnect in the first place????

Doug....... Think for a moment......I realize there is a HUGE difference between "Cant spend the cash" and "Wont spend the Cash"..

I also realize that it "Hurts" either way.

What you are discussing here, in essence, is asking a Local Contractor, to risk his life, because you Cant , or wont , spend the cash....I dont know your financial status, and I wont ask, But may I suggest that you appeal to the Utility company for a "Hardship Exemption"....It will probably be much more successful, and definitely safer than the Fool Hearty attempt that you are making to "Sneak Under The Fence".

AHJ and Codes aside, Your homeowners insurance will definitely turn their back on you and leave you holding the Bag , if something were to go wrong.
 
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Old 03-22-09, 01:46 AM
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Originally Posted by gilmorrie View Post
Lose what license? Electricians are not licensed in this state, like many other states. Sorry about that.

Who do you think the AHJ is? Like much of the U.S., we have no electrical codes here. I am the AHJ for my house. Sorry about that, too.

There are many U.S. electrical facilities, with much higher voltages than 240V, that are safely worked hot every minute, hour, and day. Are they all "stupid" as you say?

Where has your 30-years of experience been?
Doug
Doug { Gilmorrie }.,,

If in case you overlook the statement related to the licensed electricians yes there is licensed electricians look Metro de Chicago ., Springfeild , Rockford , few other med to large Metros do have them allready in effect there.

One of our Members live in that area His name is Arc-N-Spark he will fill you in with the info in his area so you should be on his radar anyhow.,

This is one of few topic that we the electricians are not too crazy to give out this type of details due the safety reason as I mention at the began section of this topic.

Please do understand what we were trainied to work in this situation all the time as we do have very few area that have legit reason to work on hot and this situation is out of the DIY scope here.

So please understand us and our safety requirements.

Merci,Marc

P.S. I am master electrician in both State of Wisconsin and Paris France so I am famuair with both sets of codes for over 20+ years
 

Last edited by french277V; 03-22-09 at 01:48 AM. Reason: add P.S. note
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Old 03-22-09, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by french277V View Post
If in case you overlook the statement related to the licensed electricians yes there is licensed electricians look Metro de Chicago ., Springfeild , Rockford , few other med to large Metros do have them allready in effect there.
Yes, I've said that myself in several posts already. (I think perhaps this thread is feeding on itself without reference to what has already been said before.)

But electricians are not licensed by the state of Illinois. It is strictly a local matter. My locality does not license electricians and there are no electrical codes here, either.

What does all that have to do with the question at hand? Nothing really, in my opinion. Others have thrown up the issue of whether my electrician (who I haven't really even talked to yet) should lose his license and hoping the AHJ (of which there isn't one) would somehow step in. And telling me that that the AHJ could require me to install a 4-wire underground service if I decide to put the meter at the street.

I now have enough information to decide what I want to do. Thanks.
Doug
 
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Old 03-22-09, 09:35 AM
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Bit surprised the Mods have let this get so contentious. Perhaps we should all show restraint and let the thread die. BTJMO
 
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