If utility companies are not going to go through the effort of placing wires underground, despite popular support for such a plan, then they need to ensure that the above-ground infrastructure is safe and, more importantly, sound.
Verizon owns most of the utility poles in our area and is responsible for their maintenance. The company reportedly inspects poles throughout a community on a periodic basis. And while poles that are in need of repair or replacement are identified, transferring electric, telephone and cable infrastructure to new poles seems to lag – considerably, in some cases.
This all came to light in Chatham after a pole on Old Queen Anne Road snapped in half on June 28, leaving half the town without electricity. Poles have fallen in town before, but it's usually the result of a storm or severe wind. June 28 was a windless day. Police Chief Michael Anderson happened to be in traffic and saw the pole snap and hang suspended in the air by utility wires. Police had notified Verizon that the pole was leaning as far back as 2020. A replacement pole was installed right next to the one that snapped, but wires and other infrastructure had not been transferred to it. Having the new pole available no doubt minimized the outage, but the fact remains that such a weakened pole should never have been allowed to remain.
An Eversource spokesperson told the select board last week that better communications between the two utilities regarding the condition of poles is needed. As the kids would say, “no duh.” It's shocking – no pun intended – that a pole could deteriorate so much that it literally snaps in half. A drive around town reveals numerous other poles that appear to be in a compromised condition. Select board members are right to push Verizon to do an immediate review of the condition of all poles in town, and should also insist on a followup with both utilities to ensure both that poles found to be substandard are replaced and the electric and other infrastructure on them is transferred to new poles promptly. Other communities should do the same. The Old Queen Anne Road pole could have easily fallen on a passing vehicle.
And this time of year, given the summer heat, the loss of power could have potentially fatal ramifications.