NSTAR says new utility poles are needed for upgrade in reliability

Herbacide spraying under power lines is under protest. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The installation by NSTAR contractors of new utility poles along Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road provided a lightning rod for Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel at the weekly selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night.

Mr. Israel said he couldn’t believe what he saw while traveling on Edgartown Road the other day.

“It looks like Secaucus, New Jersey,” he said. “There are these massive poles that are more than twice the width of the existing poles and have got to be 10 feet taller.”

Mr. Israel said he couldn’t recall whether the selectmen were told about the new poles and signed off on the project. He said he called department of public works (DPW) director Fred LaPiana to follow up with NSTAR.

“Im sure they have some reason for doing it, but I’m absolutely appalled at NSTAR,” Mr. Israel said. “They’ve marred the beauty of our town by doing something without substantive discussion.”

Mr. LaPiana said NSTAR had informed the town of its plans to replace the poles to accommodate the link to a new undersea cable that will provide electricity from the mainland.

“NSTAR said these poles are required to be much higher and two-tiered because they’re carrying more than one circuit, and that’s the new code, and that’s the new material, and that’s the way it’s going to be,” Mr. LaPiana said.

“Well, they are desecrating the town,” Mr. Israel said. “I think we should formally ask them to remove these poles.”

Mr. LaPiana said he did not know if there were any conditions about the poles in the easement the town granted NSTAR for placing them on town-owned land. He suggested that town administrator Jay Grande seek advice from town counsel.

“I’ve had the opportunity to go out there, and it was a shock,” Mr. Grande added.

Mr. Israel made a motion to ask Mr. Grande to look into the issue and consult town counsel about whether the town has any rights regarding the poles, and to inform NSTAR if that is the case. “And then we should write a letter demanding that these poles be removed and something more in keeping with the character of our town be installed,” he said.

Selectman chairman Jeff Kristal said the town should also remind NSTAR about numerous requests to remove a utility pole that sticks out onto Beach Road near the Chamber of Commerce building and a few others around town for safety reasons. He and selectman Jonathan Snyder joined Mr. Israel in approving his motion.

“This work is part of an important electric service reliability project for Martha’s Vineyard that features the installation of a new submarine cable from Falmouth to West Chop,” NSTAR spokesman Mike Durand told The Times. “We’re installing bigger poles along Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road because the existing ones will not support the larger, heavier wire and equipment that are needed for the project. The new poles and equipment are also designed to better withstand the challenging weather conditions on the Island and, together with the submarine cable, are expected to help to enhance reliability for years to come.”