Low utility lines within children's reach

April 01, 2008

THE PROBLEM -- Utility lines on an Anne Arundel County street are too close to the ground.

THE BACKSTORY -- Tim Longmire Jr. has driven on East Joyce Lane in Arnold on his way to work twice a day for seven years.

He's noticed that the utility wires on poles were way too low for a long time - ever since Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003.

It was frustrating, because the lines are near a school bus stop. He worried that a student might kick a football or soccer ball in that direction, get too close to the wires and get injured.

"Kids being kids, you never know what they're going to get into," Longmire said.

The Arnold resident said he first reported it more than a year ago to Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., who told him the lines belonged to Verizon. He then called Verizon, where a representative told him the company appreciated the concern but the cables weren't theirs, either.

Longmire finally took several photos of the site for Watchdog and even stuck a yardstick in one image to help gauge the height. The lines did clear the ruler, but not by much.

Watchdog hit forward on his e-mail, sending it to the three likely owners, BGE, Verizon and Comcast. Verizon spokesman Sandra Arnette claimed them and agreed the lines were too low.

Part of the problem is that one utility pole sits on a hill, she said.

The next day, Arnette updated her response. Verizon personnel inspected the line and found it lacked a guy wire, causing the line to droop. They replaced it last week, she said.

BGE has installed new utility poles in the area, so Verizon has transferred its cables to the new poles. "The wires should be even higher," she said.

Normally, cables are attached 18 feet high on utility poles, with a droop no lower than 14 feet off the ground.

National electric safety codes prohibit lines that cross roads to droop lower than 15 feet, 8 inches, she said. Longmire said he has noticed the wires are now up higher - "they're no longer in a child's reach," he said. But he's not convinced they're completely out of the way.

WHO CAN FIX THIS -- To report drooping or downed phone company lines, call 800-275-2355 24 hours a day or 888-550-2244 from 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

UPDATE

Govans residents should keep their eyes on the clock - the Curran Memorial clock tower, that is. The timepiece has been out of commission since it was struck by lightning twice shortly after it was installed in the 1970s, said Laura Thul Penza, president of the Govanstowne Business Association. Reader Peg Massey, who first called the tower to Watchdog's attention, noticed banners in the area announcing something new will be installed in its place. The group plans to install a new clock this summer, Penza said. They are still seeking final donations toward the approximately $85,000 cost of the new tower. This time, she said, it will be dedicated to the memory of not just one but two Currans who served on the City Council: J. Joseph Curran Sr. and his son, Martin E. "Mike" Curran.

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