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Law targets 12,000 broken utility poles along Suffolk roads

A double utility pole. (Aug. 29, 2012)

A double utility pole. (Aug. 29, 2012) Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Saying that Suffolk’s roads are lined with 12,000 unsightly broken utility poles -- each of them tied to a new replacement pole -- the Suffolk Legislature has passed a new law imposing a $1,000 per month fine for each of those poles.

Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who drew up the legislation, said “double poles” line county roads all across Suffolk, and that it is common practice for various utilities to leave them in place because there has been no financial incentive to remove them.

Under the new law, the county must give notice to the utility with the uppermost wire on the pole -- or to the owner of the pole, if all wires are removed -- that it must be removed, and fines can be imposed after 60 days.

The legislation allows the county to hire an outside firm to file notices and collect the fines.

Mark Gross, director of communications for the Long Island Power Authority, said his agency is “pretty current” on pole removal, and estimated that less than three percent of the broken polls would be LIPA’s responsibility. He said LIPA supports the new legislation.

But John Bonomo, director of media relations for Verizon -- which opposes the new law -- said removing a pole is a lot more complicated than most people think.

“We can’t send a crew out to remove our facilities only to have other carriers and tenants still on the pole,” he said, adding that a single pole could have wires from half a dozen or more different firms on it.

For safety reasons, the utility with the highest wire must remove it first, even if it is a municipality that has hung a traffic light from a utility pole.

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