Spotlight on Easement and Permits Liaison

Posted: January 25, 2021, 12:00 am

Passionate, detail oriented and focused on the job, Cloverland Electric’s Easement and Permits Liaison, Johanna Wiltfong, is an asset to the cooperative.

Holding degrees in legal studies and personal computers, Wiltfong’s career began working for the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Wiltfong became a skilled member of her team and knowledgeable in her field through a drive to learn everything she could about her job. She soon realized that although the technical field was interesting, it was not her career passion. In 2002, Wiltfong began working as Cloverland Electric Cooperative’s Right of Way Maintenance Specialist, now titled Easements and Permits Specialist.

Serving the cooperative in this role for over 18 years, Wiltfong is a vault of information on easement requirements and legal permit processes. Her knowledge of federal, state and county regulations and network of resources are essential to the role. Wiltfong is primarily self-trained through years of research on easement and permits in Michigan.

An easement may be required from the cooperative for new member services and some service upgrades. An easement gives Cloverland Electric the right to use a designated portion of the property owner’s land for the purpose of providing electric service to a member.

Easement example

“Easements are tailored for the property facilities at the location,” states Wiltfong.

Members requesting new service may be required to have the easement signed by neighboring property owners, which often affects the timeline of new service installation. Easements may also require signatures from state officials, federal agencies, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), surrounding county government agencies and more.

The role of the easements and permits liaison is to determine required signatures for the easement to fulfill all legal requirements. Depending on the location of the property, it may take Wiltfong two hours to a full day to complete research on a property easement. Research timelines are affected by historical property lines, land contracts, estate sales and property sales between family members that may not have been recorded with the necessary agencies.

“Many factors come into play affecting the timeline of the easement process,” Wiltfong describes.

Once property research is complete, Wiltfong works with the cooperative’s staking technicians to determine the next steps members must take to complete an easement on new property or to receive an upgraded service on an existing easement. Clear communication on easement requirements is essential between Wiltfong, staking technicians and cooperative members.

“Every job is different,” states Wiltfong. “I rely on communication with division managers and staking technicians to form a priority list of all ongoing jobs.”

Analyzing the priority list allows Wiltfong to determine projects that have completed easements and jobs that may have an expanded timeline due to required easement signatures from neighbors, federal agencies and state officials. Organization allows Wiltfong to stay on track with all easement requirements and work orders. Using cooperative technology, a color-coded filing system, post-it notes and Excel spreadsheets, Wiltfong stays on track with work orders from the staking technicians.

“This job is complex,” describes Wiltfong. “I love that each day brings a new challenge to complete.”

Wiltfong encourages members interested in new electric service to reach out to Cloverland Electric’s Member Services team before starting a design or construction on new property.

“Working with the cooperative from the start ensures our members receive knowledge and electric utility resources necessary to make informed decisions about their property,” describes Wiltfong.

Cloverland Electric’s Member Services team can be reached at (800) 562-4953 or www.cloverland.com/contact-us/.

By: Cloverland Electric's Communications Specialist, Abby Bell.