By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Who would put utility poles in the middle of a sidewalk?
That’s the question the City Council was asking last night, when it held public hearings on requests from Verizon and National Grid to install utility poles on South Prospect Street, Middlesex Street and on Main Street across from City Hall. The conversation quickly turned to what councilors said is a problem with the placement of poles along South Main Street.
Joseph Gleason, Verizon’s right of way agent, asked the council to approve requests for joint pole locations and said it was part of a larger upgrade of electrical substations in Haverhill by National Grid. He said about 330 poles will be replaced or upgraded and that National Grid was to assign a liaison to advise the city of the work that is being done. The council approved the requests, but made it clear they did not want to see any poles placed in the middle of sidewalks.
Councilors told Gleason that as part of the state’s $13.1 million South Main Street improvement project, dozens of poles were placed in the middle of sidewalks and other “obstructive” locations.
Councilor Thomas Sullivan said the most “egregious” examples of poorly placed utility poles can be found along the sidewalks between Holland’s Flowers and Academy Lanes.
“I couldn’t believe there is a pole that is actually right on the edge of somebody’s driveway,” Sullivan said. “I can’t for the life of me imagine how that pole got there.”
Sullivan said the state’s consultant for the South Main Street reconstruction project has done a “pole by pole” review and that city engineer John Pettis should have a report on the consultant’s recommendations in January.
“We’re at a point where we probably can’t do anything but wait for John Pettis’ report and the recommendations to see if those poles and any others that are in the middle of the sidewalks can be moved in the spring,” Sullivan said.
Councilor Michael McGonagle said the placement of poles appeared to have been done in a “hodge podge” manner.
“Find a way to make it so a stroller or wheelchair can get by,” he said. “It just makes no sense and I do believe those are going to be changed.”
Sullivan said he’s received a number of complaints from residents about the placement of utility poles along South Main Street.
“People are upset about it,” Sullivan said. “It doesn’t make sense from a safety standpoint and it doesn’t look good as well.”
City Councilor William Ryan suggested the city come up with a review process to ensure future requests for utility poles do not result in their being placed in problematic locations. “We can see the trouble we got into in Bradford by not having more review by the city,” Ryan said.
The council agreed to send a letter to Mayor James Fiorentini asking him to look into the creation of a pre-approval process for joint pole location requests. The council did, however, approve these joint pole location requests.