Many calls required to get tree off Reisterstown phone wires

  • Used oil, anti-freeze, and paint are piled up beside a broken used oil container at Baltimore City's Northwest Sanitation Yard on Sisson Street.
Used oil, anti-freeze, and paint are piled up beside a broken… (Timothy B. Wheeler, Baltimore…)
December 18, 2010

The problem: A tree fell on utility lines in Reisterstown and remained there despite numerous calls to report the problem.

The backstory: This is for certain: Gravity definitely works on Berrymans Lane in Baltimore County. Other things — such as how to alert a utility that a tree has fallen on its lines — remain contentious.

While driving, Lloyd Lachow noticed that a tree was leaning on utility wires in the 1100 block of Berrymans Lane. He thought the tree would fall on the road, should the wires give way, so he pulled over and called 911 twice to give officials the info.

"I went back later that day to see what they had done," he said. "It was nothing."

Lachow ended up making a U-turn in a neighbor's driveway, and it turned out that the neighbor's wife had called several agencies to report it over the last month. "Everyone said it was someone else's responsibility to do," he said.

Lachow called 911 again on Dec. 10, and again got no response, so he decided to call Baltimore Gas and Electric directly on Monday. He found out that BGE had sent out inspectors on Dec. 12, but they determined the wires holding up the tree were Verizon's, not theirs.

Then Lachow called Verizon. "I sat there with my headset on my head for about one hour and 20 minutes trying to get through to Verizon repair, and finally gave up," he said.

He contacted a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, who mentioned it to Watchdog. Watchdog forwarded it to BGE and Verizon and the tree was removed by Verizon on Wednesday, reported company spokeswoman Sandra Arnette.

BGE spokeswoman Linda Foy confirmed that technicians did go out to inspect the lines and wrote in their field report that BGE equipment was not involved and therefore not responsible.

On utility poles, BGE lines are at the top, Comcast's are in the middle and Verizon's are the lowest, Arnette said.

She said that Verizon was not aware of the problem until Watchdog's call. "Normally, if someone calls 911 with a hazardous situation involving Verizon, the 911 center calls Verizon," she wrote in an e-mail. "We then will dispatch a technician immediately to the location. In this case, we have no such calls or messages from Baltimore County 911."

But Robert "Tim" Burgess, chief of the bureau of highways in Baltimore County's Department of Public Works, said crews from the area shop inspected the situation after calls from residents, and reported it to Verizon twice.

To be fair, "they didn't feel it was all that dangerous," Burgess said. The crew said if it had fallen, it would have fallen to the edge of the road, not into the roadway.

However, the staff did immediately call Verizon to report the problem, he said. "Verizon is notoriously slow with this," he said.

If the tree posed an immediate danger, Baltimore County would have dispatched a crew to take the tree down, Burgess said. "We will eliminate a dangerous situation," he said.

However, he recommends that consumers call everyone they can to try to get results when they see something amiss. "At least if you shotgun the calls like that, it will get results," Burgess said.

Who can fix this: If you see a tree on a wire that might fall on a road, call BGE at 410-685-0123, Verizon at 800-VERIZON and, in Baltimore County, the Bureau of Highways in the Department of Public Works at 410-887-3560.

— Liz F. Kay

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