Published in the May 12, 2016 edition.
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD —Those who have been calling for the removal of the utility poles in front of the parks at the head of the Lake got some good news this week. A contractor hired by the Wakefield Municipal Gas & Light Department will soon begin the process of placing the overhead wires underground and removing the poles.
The work is expected to begin as soon as next week, WMGLD assistant manager Eugene J. Sullivan told the Board of Selectmen this week. The WMGLD has contracted Phoenix Communications to do the work. Phoenix is the same company that recently completed the undergrounding of utilities on Main Street in the downtown area in connection with the Brightview Senior Living construction project.
Sullivan and engineer Vinny McMahon appeared before the selectmen this week in a public hearing to place one new pole at the head of the Lake.
Sullivan noted that there are currently four poles along Lowell Street in front of the side-by-side Gertrude Spaulding Park and Col. Edward Connelly Park. Two are the large rectangular wood laminate poles and the other two are the regular round wooden poles, Sullivan said. Those four poles will be removed, Sullivan said, and the wires they support will be placed underground.
The new pole will be placed even further toward Main Street than any of the current poles, Sullivan explained, “because we need to come up up out of the ground at some point.”
The large rectangular wood laminate poles have been controversial ever since they were installed late in 2010 by the Wakefield Municipal Gas & Light Department to serve the power and data needs of Digital Realty Trust, a large San Francisco-based data storage company with facilities at 200 Quannapowitt Parkway.
At the time, the MGLD explained that it made the decision to use the much larger poles because smaller poles would have necessitated using guy wires to support the additional circuit being run along the parks and down Quannapowitt Parkway to serve DRT.
Many in town were upset that the poles were erected without public input, especially after much time and money had been invested in upgrading the parks at the head of the Lake. They argued that it would have been preferable to place the wires and cables underground. In 2012, the selectmen appointed a seven-member committee to look at ways to eliminate the poles and wires.
Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio along with representatives of the Friends of Lake Quannapowitt (FOLQ) announced a plan last October that would result in the poles being removed and the wires being placed underground along the edge of Col. Connelly Park and Gertrude Spaulding Park at the head of the Lake.
Maio said at the time that the cost of removing the poles and placing the wires in underground duct banks on Lowell Street was estimated at $230,000. Breaking down the numbers, he said that the cost of undergrounding the communications cables was $135,000 and the cost of burying the Verizon wires was $90,000. The electrical portion, Maio said, would be picked up by the Wakefield Municipal Gas & Light Department “in the ordinary course of business.”
Maio said that Wakefield’s state legislators had succeeded in securing $100,000 in state funding toward the project. Another $30,000 is being contributed by the friends of Lake Quannapowitt. That left a $95,000 shortage.
Maio explained that Verizon had given the town two choices: either pay them up front for moving their wires or add $2 to everyone’s phone bills to pay for it.
Maio indicated last October that the $95,000 shortage could be funded by using a portion of the project income that is left in the now defunct Community Block Grant program, thereby using no tax levy money.
The selectmen approved the recommendation of Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio to roll over a $4,302,743 bond at a rate of 1 percent. Maio explained that the sum being rolled over includes $3.3 million remaining on one of the Galvin Middle school bonds plus $950,000 for a new fire truck.
In other business this week, the Board of Selectmen:
• Reappointed James F. Pinette and Richard Pearson to the Veterans Advisory Board.
• Appointed Richard A. Colantuoni as replacement Building Inspector to fill in when Jack Roberto is on vacation.
• Appointed Paula Ericksen as a teller at Precinct 6.
• Accepted with regret the resignation of Frank Hayes from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
• Approved a request from Library Director Sharon Gilley to accept and expend $9,542.45 in gifts from various donors.
• Congratulated Lowell Street’s Karen Faler on being selected as one of the Commonwealth’s Unsung Heroines of 2016.