It’s been almost two years since Green Mountain Power installed new utility poles along Route 7, and now the older, shorter ones are finally coming down.
GMP crews have been pulling up poles from Ritchie Avenue to West Milton Road this month. A two-man team uses a digger truck to hoist the poles out of their 6-foot-deep holes, load them on flatbed trailers and haul them off for recycling.
The job doesn’t take too long once you start; getting started was the problem.
GMP first installed the new poles in summer 2012, coinciding with Milton’s massive town core sewer project; they had to be moved anyway, so GMP jumped on the construction bandwagon, said Eric Lemery, GMP’s manager of pre-construction and a Milton resident.
Plus, the increased development at the Hannaford plaza and along Route 7 called for an upgrade to match the load. The timing was right.
But as they say, timing is everything. And though GMP transferred 12,000 feet of power line last year as the top utility co-located on the pole, the others took a little longer to follow suit. And that frustrated Selectboard Chairman Darren Adams.
“It’s something I look at every day,” he said. “To me, each pole is a red flag that really sticks out.”
After bringing it up at a board meeting, Adams called GMP and FairPoint Communications to jumpstart the process. He found them very responsive.
FairPoint Vermont spokeswoman Christine Rivers explained the utilities have to take turns moving their lines, which takes time and coordination.
“It’s been an extensive process, but we’ve been working for the past six weeks to remove as many as we can,” she said. Last week, there were about 15 to go.
Both Rivers and Lemery said customer calls about service take precedence over line transfers and added to the delay.
“We do our best,” Lemery said, “but like anything, there’s a lot of pressing work across the state.”
Adams is pleased the work is wrapping up. He noted it’s a small effort but one that improves Route 7’s overall appearance, a mission he’s had since he became chairman of the board last year.
On Adams’ suggestion, the selectboard formed the Improvements Committee, a seven-seat group charged with presenting 10 aesthetic-advancing projects by July 1. The dilapidated Stannard House on Route 7 is likely to be a major focus, Adams said.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he acknowledged, “but when you something as ugly as unnecessary as two utility poles sitting side by side, it’s an aesthetics issue and a safety issue.”
Lemery agreed; as a resident, he’s happy to see the poles coming down: “Anybody would agree with that – it looks better with one than two,” he said.
The town has to start somewhere, Adams said. The ultimate goal is improving Milton’s curb appeal so it can get the biggest bang out of its tax increment financing districts, which allow Milton to retain tax dollars for infrastructure it couldn’t otherwise afford.
And in the utility pole case, the town didn’t pay a dime. It did cost GMP $1 million, however, but that’s the cost for reliability and increased capacity. Now both substations are connected, providing back up in case there are outages, Lemery said.
“That’s what it all comes down to really,” he said. “We don’t do this stuff for the fun of it. We try to get the biggest value for our customers.”
And all it took was a conversation.
“There’s lots of projects out there that can be done in the spirit,” Adams said.
Milton’s Improvements Committee meets the second Wednesday each month at 6:30 p.m. in the municipal complex community room. There are vacancies for new members; visit www.miltonvt.org for more information.