Utilities may face fines for old poles

Broken and cracked wooden poles in Riverhead could soon cost utility companies hefty fines if they don’t remove the eyesores within what Riverhead Town considers a reasonable amount of time.

The Riverhead Town Board will vote Tuesday whether or not to pass a new law that would mean fines for Verizon and the Long Island Power Authority, the utilities that jointly own the poles, of $250 a day, beginning 150 days after receiving notice to remove the poles.

Councilman James Wooten, who sponsored the legislation, charged that there are about 500 instances of what are known as “double wood,” a broken pole usually tethered to a newer pole, throughout the town. Some of those poles are a safety hazard and have been there for years, he said.

“Everyone is passing the buck on who should do it,” he said during a press event to announce the legislation Monday.

He said the town will launch a civil action in court if the utility companies refuse to pay the fines.

Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) is cosponsoring a similar bill in the county legislature.

In most cases, LIPA is first on the scene when a damaged utility pole needs to be replaced. It usually erects the new pole but leaves the old, broken one in place because its cable and telephone lines still must be shifted. In most instances, Verizon is the last utility to remove its wires from a damaged pole, which under existing law makes it responsible for the pole’s removal.

Verizon spokesman John Bonomo said the phone company is committed to removing the poles, but that the state may pass legislation that could complicate its efforts to do so.

“To have separate laws in separate towns, counties and municipalities, with a [New York State Public Service Commission] regulation also in place, would create a patchwork that actually would work against the process,” he said in an e-mail.

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