Pole problems in Lake Carmel

(Original publication: April 6, 2006)

LAKE CARMEL — It was a comfort when someone wrapped orange flagging tape around more than a dozen utility poles near this Kent community, and also marked them with spray paint.

Several of the marked poles lean jauntily out over the narrow streets or tip toward a driveway or home. Others have visible cracks running for more than a foot along the pole.

Some are so rotten at the base that a technician working on Woodland Drive could shove a screwdriver through them, a neighbor said.

Many hoped the markings meant replacement. But that was February and nothing's been done.

"I'm just concerned," said Mike Dunne, who lives on Woodland Drive, where four poles still wear their decorations. "No one's really stepping forward. It's a public-safety issue."

Dunne was concerned enough to contact the Town Board about the poles. Councilwoman Kathy Doherty, who lives in Lake Carmel, said she's asked New York State Electric and Gas Corp. and Verizon about the poles but hasn't received any answers yet.

The marked posts can also be found on Cottage, Osceola, Stanwich and Rosedale roads, and East Lake Shore Drive.

"I'm told they were rotten and no one's coming forward to take care of them," Doherty said. "It's a dangerous situation."

Most wood utility poles have a roadside life of about 60 years, according to a University of Massachusetts study. Some of the region's utility poles took a beating in January and February from a spate of wind, snow and ice storms. But many of the poles in question in Lake Carmel are just middle-aged — branded with dates in the 1960s.

The poles also feature metal tags that are stamped with "NYSEG" as in New York State Electric and Gas. Like Verizon, that utility provided little information about the matter.

"Although they have NYSEG tags and lines on them, they are probably joint-owned, or they may even be owned by Verizon," said NYSEG spokesman Jim Salmon. "We keep extensive records on poles and diligently test them for decay and insects. We replace damaged poles long before they become a safety issue."

Verizon spokesman Cliff Lee said he was unfamiliar with any pole-replacement projects in Kent. A construction manager, he said, would be sent to check the poles.

Kent Town Supervisor Arne Nordstrom said he doubted they could fall over, because of the tension on wires to adjoining poles.

At a Town Board meeting this week, he agreed with Doherty's request to write a letter to the utility companies, seeking more information about the situation.

Dunne, though, said no one "was stepping up to the plate."

"I'm worried about the bureaucracy. The companies aren't taking responsibility," Dunne said.


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Thursday, April 6, 2006