Published in the October 27, 2015 edition
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — The five-year effort to remove the oversized rectangular poles from the head of the Lake has apparently resulted in a plan whereby the poles will be removed and the wires placed underground. And, according to the plan, it won’t cost taxpayers or electric ratepayers anything.
Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio along with representatives of the Friends of Lake Quannapowitt (FOLQ) announced a plan at last night’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen that will result in the poles being removed and the wires placed underground along the edge of Col. Connelly Park and Gertrude Spaulding Park at the head of the Lake.
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 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, arguing 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 oversized wood laminate utility poles and wires located along two public parks at the head of the Lake.
Karen Faler of the Friends of Lake Quannapowitt said last night that for the last 20 years, the people of Wakefield have expressed a desire for the head of the Lake to be transformed into a beautiful gateway into the town.
Maio said 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 said 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.
There is some urgency to getting the project going, Maio said, because he was worried that the state might take back the $100,000.
Maio said that he viewed the Lake as an economic engine of the town and saw the removal of the poles and wires as a “great way to open up that vista as a gateway to the town.”
Selectman Brian Falvey said that he saw the project as a good use of money to cover an investment that the town had already made in creating and upgrading the park areas at the head of the Lake.
“It’s a nice finish to a long process,” Falvey said.
He saw it as a good example of a public/private partnership between the town, the state, the WMGLD and FOLQ. He expressed disappointment that Digital Realty Trust had not been willing to participate in the funding of the project but Maio said there could be another opportunity for DRT if there is a “Phase 2” of the project.
The selectmen voted unanimously to approve the $95,000 of project income for the project.
Maio thanked the members of the committee that worked to find a way to remove the poles, especially Faler, Falvey and WMGLD Commissioner Michael McCarthy.