SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 22, 2013

Liberty Street poles spark double-pole discussion in Danvers

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — Verizon’s seemingly routine request to move utility poles in advance of the start of the state reconstruction of the Liberty Street causeway this year provided the opening for Selectman Bill Clark to once again ask a representative of the telecommunications giant why it has failed to address the eyesore of numerous double poles in town.

Joseph Gleason, a contract right-of-way agent for Verizon, came before the board to ask permission that four poles be removed on Liberty Street and that a temporary utility conduit be built over the Porter River. Later, he said, these four poles would be replaced by three poles and the temporary conduit removed.

Gleason said the pole work was needed as the Massachusetts Department of Transportation replaces culverts under Liberty Street. The overhead power lines need to be moved for the safety of the crane operators installing cofferdams for the work.

It would seem that double poles — a new pole set next to an aging or broken one while utilities are moved — and the need to relocate poles in advance of the $7.1 million reconstruction of the Liberty Street causeway would have nothing to do with one another.

However, Clark wanted to hammer home that while Verizon has addressed 100 double poles since he brought the issue up in December 2011, the company has not done enough to address all of them, and it seemed the problem was getting worse. While Clark understood that the Liberty Street project was a state project that would move forward anyway, he said he would vote against Verizon’s request to make a point that the company has to address double poles.

“There are still some double poles on High Street left over from that project,” he said, referring to the recent reconstruction of the intersection at routes 128 and 35.

“Why is it they are allowed?” Selectman Diane Langlais asked, saying she wanted to see a report detailing them.

Danvers Electric Director of Engineering and Operations Hamid Jaffari said there is a process involved to relocate utility lines from an old pole to a new one, with electric lines moved first, then Verizon’s lines, then cable and fire alarm lines. He said he could get a report on the double poles to the town manager as soon as today, but he did not have it in front of him.

Danvers Electric and Verizon, which jointly own the poles, share software to coordinate the work, Jaffari said. Danvers Electric devotes one weekend a month to address the problem. However, he also stressed that the poles on Liberty Street need to be moved to make way for the state project.

The poles that need to be moved involve a new feeder line installed as recently as 2006, Jaffari said. It will have to be reinstalled once the culverts are replaced. Town Manager Wayne Marquis pointed out the reconstruction is a town-initiated request that has been contemplated for 10 years.

“We are on the verge of the project starting,” said Marquis, who said while the fall may seem far away, it’s not. He did not want to see any holdup in the project, which has the potential to disrupt traffic in town while Liberty Street is closed.

Gleason said the number of double poles is changing all the time.

“When you look at the inventory, you will see a myriad of poles in flux,” Gleason said. He said he often hears similar concerns in other communities, and he suggested the concerns be addressed to former Salem Mayor Stan Usovicz, regional director, external affairs for Verizon. Gleason said the board did not have to wait for him to appear with a pole relocation request to raise concerns about double poles.

“It would be in the town’s best interest to approve it tonight,” said Marquis about the Liberty Street pole relocation request. In the meantime, the town plans to contact Usovicz and get the report about double poles from Jaffari.

“I will go along with that,” said Clark, satisfied he had made his point, with the board voting 5-0 for the poles to be relocated.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.