Tisbury’s West Chop view enhanced, minus poles and wires

The homeowner imagines this West Chop view minus the wires and pole. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

A West Chop homeowner’s beautiful ocean view will soon no longer be marred by utility poles. As the result of a project that has taken several months, the utility poles will be removed and the overhead wires buried along a stretch of Main Street.

As town and NSTAR officials describe the process, it is not easy and not cheap to get rid of those pesky poles, however. It starts with the electric utility, NSTAR, which develops a plan and an estimate, department of public works (DPW) Fred LaPiana told The Times. Then the town must issue permits to build the infrastructure, the underground PVC conduit to contain the wires.

The Tisbury selectmen voted to approve the project to install underground conduit to contain NSTAR and Verizon wires at a public hearing last fall.

The project at 1016 Main Street involves the removal of three poles along a 300-foot section of the road, according to NSTAR spokesman Mike Durand.

“The customer pays the entire cost, and if telephone and cable wires are on the poles, those companies also have to be involved,” Mr. Durand wrote in response to questions emailed from The Times.

Gerard and Sarah Griffin of London, England, are the owners of the property. Mr. Griffin is the founder and manager of the former $2.75 billion fund, Tisbury Capital Management. In April 2010 he joined GLG Partners, a London-based hedge fund, according to a previously published report in The Wall Street Journal.

A second proposed project to remove three poles nearby at 1032 Main Street has not undergone a public hearing yet. Town records list the owners as Thomas J. Graham and Christine Barney of New York.

“It’s the utility’s responsibility to do work on a public way,” Mr. Durand said. “A customer approaches us with a request to put wires underground, and once it’s approved we line up a contractor or do the work ourselves, or a combination. Then the customer pays us.”

Powers Electric in Vineyard Haven is the contractor for the project at 1016 Main Street. Once complete, Tisbury wiring inspector Raymond Gosselin must inspect the trench, conduit, and wire.

When asked about cost, Mr. Durand said, “We don’t share that publicly; it’s between us and the customer who requested the work.”

Speaking about such projects in general, Mr. Durand said the cost varies depending on the level of work required. Industry-wide, he estimated, “The average could be a million dollars a mile.”

In addition to enhancing the West Chop view, Mr. LaPiana pointed out that the 1016 Main Street project provides other bonuses for the town. “In this case, the gentleman is paying to put the utilities underground along that stretch and also for resurfacing the road,” he said. “He is also paying for installation of secondary street lights, similar to the ones on Beach Road, to take place of the lights on the poles coming down. It would be an expensive endeavor for the town, and it certainly benefits the town.”

The latest project to remove utility poles and bury wires in the scenic West Chop area is similar to one done by James Ferraro, a prominent Miami attorney. He owns a 16-bedroom, 21,100-square-foot house on upper Main Street across from a meadow owned by Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation. In 2007 Mr. Ferraro decided to remove two poles and move another one to improve his view of the outer Vineyard Haven Harbor and East Chop.

Similar projects have also been accomplished by neighborhood groups over the last several years. Members of the Prospect Park Association in Oak Bluffs teamed up on a project in 2007 to remove utility poles and wires along a part of the park on East Chop Drive. The project removed three poles, relocated two poles with transformers, provided underground service to 10 houses, eliminated about 900 feet of underground wire, and improved the view of the park. The cost was about $100,000.

One of the most ambitious projects took place in Edgartown, where a small group of residents pooled their resources to fund the removal of poles and wires on North Water Street, along with other improvements.

S. Bailey Norton, a resident on the street and one of the project’s leaders, said it was a long process that started in 2003 and finished up in 2011.

The neighborhood group privately funded the necessary engineering and survey work. They hired a company to lay the infrastructure, underground conduit and vaults, from Simpson Lane to Starbuck Neck. The project involved taking down 20 utility poles and wires, plus a lot more.

“We found along the route we wanted to bury the cable, the water main was 105 years old, ” Mr. Norton said. “That had to be removed and a new one put in.”

The neighborhood group funded the water main replacement on North Water Street, from Cottage Street to Thayer Street.

“The street was rebuilt, brick sidewalks were put in, and we wound up with 25 or 30 new street lanterns,” Mr. Norton added. “It was quite a project. We had a lot of support from the superintendent of highways, Stuart Fuller.”

Although initially estimated at $2.5 million, Mr. Norton said the project ended up costing about $2.9 million. The town voted to contribute $235,000 in community preservation act funds. The rest came from donations mostly from residents and taxpayers along North Water Street, he said.