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What Are Local Utility Companies Doing To Repair Ugly, Broken Poles?

Tana Weingartner
A damaged utility pole stands beside its replacement. Duke Energy says there are about 4,700 of these "two pole" situations on its system.

A car runs into a wooden utility pole, the power company puts up a new pole, but the old one seems to stay there for weeks, annoying neighbors.

"In many cases our guys are going to be the first responders out there because there's a power outage or lines down," says Duke Energy Spokeswoman Sally Thelen. "We'll install a new pole and depending on what infrastructure is on the existing pole, in those regards we need to wait for the other utilities to come in and relocate their utilities before the pole gets pulled and removed."

Frustrated homeowners in East Hyde Park say they've been waiting more than a year for someone to take down a damaged utility pole that looks like it's barely held together by rope and caution tape. Their comments on the website NextDoor led WVXU to question the repair system.

Credit Craig Smith / NextDoor
A resident photographed this broken pole at the corner of Erie Avenue and Ault Park.

It turns out Duke Energy is trying to do something about the problem. It launched a task force this spring to to deal with the backlog of what it calls "two pole" situations. These are non-emergencies where a broken pole, while unsightly, isn't considered a safety issue. (All the companies interviewed for this story say they respond immediately in emergency situations.)

"A pole won't be left in the ground if it's in danger of falling and creating a safety hazard," Thelen assures. "They're not sometimes the prettiest to look at and some might say can be eyesores, but typically what may not look great to just the average person looking at a pole that looks damaged, it's not in a situation that's unsafe to any members of the public walking by it or driving near it."

Electricity is always at the top of a pole, other utilities like cable, phone and any signage have to move in the order they're placed down the old pole.

Cable company Spectrum leases space on poles rather than owning any. Spokesman Mike Pedelty says it has a construction group assigned to deal with issues as they arise.

"It usually takes a week or two once we're notified of a non-priority issue where we're being asked to move our facilities from one pole to another pole," he says.

Cincinnati Bell wouldn't specify a timeline but says in an email it tries to replace poles it owns as quickly as possible.

"Members of Cincinnati Bell's Network Operations team are responsible for moving our infrastructure from old poles to new poles, and for managing our inventory of Cincinnati Bell-owned poles," writes Spokesman Josh Pichler." This includes tracking and scheduling the removal of old poles that we own once all Cincinnati Bell and third-party infrastructure has been transferred to a new pole."

Cincinnati Bell declined to share the number of outstanding two pole situations on its system.

Duke's Sally Thelen says the energy company is clearing about 450 "two poles" a month, leaving 4,700 on the system as of the end of July.

As for the precarious looking situation in East Hyde Park, when WVXU went out to look a few days after calling about it, all that was left of the damaged pole was some sawdust on the sidewalk.

Only 4,699 to go...

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
Shortly after making inquiries about a damaged pole at Erie Avenue and Ault Park, WVXU went out to take a look, but all that was left was some sawdust on the sidewalk.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Prior to joining Cincinnati Public Radio, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She enjoys snow skiing, soccer and dogs.