MMA, local officials call for double-pole solution

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On June 18, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy held a hearing on a series of bills intended to expedite the removal of an estimated 30,000 doubled-up utility poles in Massachusetts.

Municipal officials who testified at the hearing include Chelmsford Selectman James Lane, Westborough Town Manager Jim Malloy, Newton Alderman Marc Laredo, Newburyport Councillor Ari Herzog, Andover Public Works Director Chris Cronin, and Lexington Electric Utility Committee member Patrick Mehr. Many local officials also provided written testimony and photos of double poles in their communities.

When a pole is damaged or has reached the end of its life, utility companies often attach a new pole to a portion of the old one, creating a “double pole.” State law (Ch. 164, Sec. 34B) requires double poles to be removed within 90 days because they are unsightly and pose a safety hazard, but the law lacks an enforcement mechanism.

The MMA is supporting a bill (H. 2952) filed by Rep. Stephen Kulik of Worthington that would authorize cities and towns to enforce the provisions of Section 34B and require utility companies to remove double poles within 90 days or be subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 per occurrence.

Kulik provided written testimony to the committee.

Last year, the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy endorsed legislation that would have required the Department of Public Utilities and the Department of Telecommunications and Cable to jointly issue new regulations within one year to deal with double poles. No further action was taken on the bill, however.

The regulations would have included a statewide fine structure that communities could use at local option. The bill also would have created a double-pole remediation advisory council, composed of utility companies, union representatives and municipal officials, to work through details such as a pole lifecycle management system and the backlog of double-pole complaints.

Rep. Kate Hogan of Stow filed a similar bill this year and testified at the hearing as well.
Written by MMA Senior Legislative Analyst Tom Philbin