Government

Threatened with New Law, Utility Companies Clean up Yorktown

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Supervisor Michael Grace said the new law will force companies to clean up their poles, such as this one on Perry Street. Here, a damaged utility pole is suspended in air next to the new pole. Credits: Supervisor Michael Grace
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YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Despite having yet to pass the legislation, town officials say a draft ordinance targeting utility companies and their unsightly poles is already having the desired effect.

The public hearing on the law, which requires owners of the poles to clean them up in a timely manner or face fines, opened last week. Because of winter storm Stella, representatives of Con Ed and NYSEG asked the town for an extension and the hearing was left open until at least the next meeting. Supervisor Michael Grace, though, said he thinks the companies are hearing Yorktown’s message loud and clear.

“Actually, I think they’re going to try and clear them all up before the next hearing,” Grace said. “They’ve asked that we give them a time to add their two cents, for what it’s worth.”

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The legislation, which has been in the works for nearly six months, was introduced at a town board work session in early March. Grace said there are countless “double utility poles” in Yorktown, many of which have been that way since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Grace explained that when a utility pole is damaged for whatever reason, the energy companies that usually own the poles, such as Con Ed or NYSEG, will immediately install a replacement pole to bring the power back online. Other companies, such as Verizon, share the pole with the energy companies and also have to transfer their wires to the new pole, which, Grace said, almost never happens.

“There are some locations that have triple poles,” Grace said. “I haven’t yet seen a quadruple pole, but they’re yet to come. There’s some absolutely amazing arrangements out there.”

One of these arrangements, Grace said, is on Perry Street, where a new pole has been installed in the ground, but the original pole is suspended in the air next to it. Not only is it unsightly, Grace said, but it presents a safety issue should these damaged poles fall.

“If you’re in Yorktown and this is what you have to drive by every day, I think it’s an absolute crime and shame because the utility company just doesn’t want to be bothered to transfer the utilities to the fixed pole,” Grace said.

Town Attorney Michael J. McDermott said very few municipalities in New York State have enacted laws similar to the one Yorktown is proposing.

“There are a couple, certainly nothing in Westchester,” McDermott said. “There have been towns that have tried it and got pushback by Con Ed. The way that we’ve drafted the legislation, we’re ready to push against Con Ed.”

The difference between this law and many that fail, McDermott said, is that Yorktown’s law has “teeth.”

“We also added a criminal component to it that if the utility fails to [remove the damaged pole] within a certain amount of time, we can file charges against them and have very strict penalties of $1,000 a day if they fail to take away the pole within the time prescribed,” McDermott said.

There is also a provision in the code that would allow the town to go to State Supreme Court and ask for an injunction requiring the utility to take down the pole.

The companies have already started to remedy particularly bad situations, he said.

“So certainly, even before it’s been noticed for a public hearing, it’s having the desired effect of cleaning up our town of these unsightly things,” McDermott said.

Responding to a question from a resident, McDermott said, should there be a catastrophic storm the utility companies need to respond to, there is a provision in the code that provides a temporary stay, during which they would not be fined.

YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Despite having yet to pass the legislation, town officials say a draft ordinance targeting utility companies and their unsightly poles is already having the desired effect.

The public hearing on the law, which requires owners of the poles to clean them up in a timely manner or face fines, opened last week. Because of winter storm Stella, representatives of Con Ed and NYSEG asked the town for an extension and the hearing was left open until at least the next meeting. Supervisor Michael Grace, though, said he thinks the companies are hearing Yorktown’s message loud and clear.

“Actually, I think they’re going to try and clear them all up before the next hearing,” Grace said. “They’ve asked that we give them a time to add their two cents, for what it’s worth.”

The legislation, which has been in the works for nearly six months, was introduced at a town board work session in early March. Grace said there are countless “double utility poles” in Yorktown, many of which have been that way since Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Grace explained that when a utility pole is damaged for whatever reason, the energy companies that usually own the poles, such as Con Ed or NYSEG, will immediately install a replacement pole to bring the power back online. Other companies, such as Verizon, share the pole with the energy companies and also have to transfer their wires to the new pole, which, Grace said, almost never happens.

“There are some locations that have triple poles,” Grace said. “I haven’t yet seen a quadruple pole, but they’re yet to come. There’s some absolutely amazing arrangements out there.”

One of these arrangements, Grace said, is on Perry Street, where a new pole has been installed in the ground, but the original pole is suspended in the air next to it. Not only is it unsightly, Grace said, but it presents a safety issue should these damaged poles fall.

“If you’re in Yorktown and this is what you have to drive by every day, I think it’s an absolute crime and shame because the utility company just doesn’t want to be bothered to transfer the utilities to the fixed pole,” Grace said.

Town Attorney Michael J. McDermott said very few municipalities in New York State have enacted laws similar to the one Yorktown is proposing.

“There are a couple, certainly nothing in Westchester,” McDermott said. “There have been towns that have tried it and got pushback by Con Ed. The way that we’ve drafted the legislation, we’re ready to push against Con Ed.”

The difference between this law and many that fail, McDermott said, is that Yorktown’s law has “teeth.”

“We also added a criminal component to it that if the utility fails to [remove the damaged pole] within a certain amount of time, we can file charges against them and have very strict penalties of $1,000 a day if they fail to take away the pole within the time prescribed,” McDermott said.

There is also a provision in the code that would allow the town to go to State Supreme Court and ask for an injunction requiring the utility to take down the pole.

The companies have already started to remedy particularly bad situations, he said.

“So certainly, even before it’s been noticed for a public hearing, it’s having the desired effect of cleaning up our town of these unsightly things,” McDermott said.

Responding to a question from a resident, McDermott said, should there be a catastrophic storm the utility companies need to respond to, there is a provision in the code that provides a temporary stay, during which they would not be fined.

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