SPARTA, NJ – Jefferson Township residents are asking Sparta Township to block a plan by Verizon and their contractors to add utility poles on Sparta Milton Road.  This past spring Timothy McDonald spoke at a township council meeting about plans to run fiber from a node on a tower on Glen Road, down Sparta Milton Road to Weldon Road and then to another utility tower on Pecose Road.

McDonald showed a map depicting the circuitous route that has been proposed.  He asked the township not to approve the Soil Disturbance permit needed to do the work.  According to McDonald and his neighbors, there are six poles in the plan; two in Jefferson that have already been approved by Jefferson and six in Sparta.

McDonald says at least two of the poles are sited in wet lands.  The others in Sparta are in a “green space,” that the residents would like to preserve. 

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On Thursday, McDonald, a few neighbors and a representative of the Audubon Society met with Sparta Township Manager Bill Close, Township Engineer Eric Powell, Township Attorney Tom Ryan and Mark Bocchieri from Verizon and George Sous from PSE&G. 

Mc Donald asked if the contractors working on the project had applied for a wetlands permit.  McDonald said one of the poles is proposed to be placed on his property in ground that “has very few days in without water.”  Further, McDonald said the area has “1A wetlands that empties into the Rockaway.” 

Close asked Powell to follow up with the contractors regarding “issues of wetlands.”  Powell was asked to find out if there is a wetland designation for the area and if so, have required permits been obtained.

McDonald proposed there were other options for the placement of the fiber including running the line down an existing PSE&G right of way or running the fiber down Glen Road to Russia Road to Weldon Road or even burying the line in existing water line trenches.

Powell and Close discussed the constraints of running other utilities in trenches with water lines. 

Bocchieri addressed the neighbors about the need for the project.  He said, “Fifty three percent of New Jersey homes strictly rely on wireless(phones), 75 percent of all 9-1-1 calls are made from cellphones and most homeowners don’t know how many devices use wireless components including the new types of doorbells, alarm systems, water meters in addition to phones and tablets.”

McDonald said they “love technology and want it to work well,” but they are “not talking about wireless they are talking about fiber.”  He also said, “We want to see the project go forward, but we would like to do it another way (other than) interrupting our green space.” The area is adjacent to Mahlon Dickenson Reservation.

Bocchieri also committed to looking into whether or not wetland applications have been sought.  He  said he would see whether or not any other options had been investigated for this proposed pole project. 

“This could be only part of a larger project,” Bocchieri said.  He talked about how large towers and large cells and small cells on roof tops integrate with the small nodes on poles to fill in the gaps.  This forms a “cluster of coverage called a polygon, to address the issue (of gaps) in the area.”

Sous said he would check to see if any use permits had been requested from PSE&G to use their towers and right of way. 

The group took a field trip to see the site first hand.  They left committed to following up with their various tasks and report back to the township manager.