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Before poles can come down, providers need to bury lines
Utility poles
A new decorative light pole installed recently by the city of Camden (left) stands next to an old wooden utility pole that has yet to be removed at the corner of Greene and Lyttleton streets. City Manger Mel Pearson said Camden is still working with AT&T and TruVista to have the two internet and cable TV providers move their lines underground into conduits already prepared by the city. - photo by Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Once again, people in Camden’s historic district and elsewhere around town are complaining about old utility poles not being removed well after electric lines have been placed underground and decorative light fixtures installed.

According to Camden City Manager Mel Pearson, while one of those providers -- AT&T -- owns a few utility poles around the city, most of them are city-owned.

“They (AT&T) have removed some of those from Lyttleton Street,” Pearson said in an email Monday morning. “The city owns the most of the poles in the city by far. However, we cannot take poles down until both AT&T and TruVista remove their service lines. The city has provided underground conduits for both utilities.”

Pearson did say the city is receiving some help in terms of working with the companies, especially AT&T.

“State Sen. (Vincent) Sheheen arranged a meeting with Mayor (Alfred Mae) Drakeford, city staff and AT&T officials recently at his office in Columbia. A plan for burial of the AT&T lines is being prepared. The plan will address timing and priorities. AT&T has been working on downtown neighborhood sites. Their crews are also working, as the city is working, on utilities along the truck route projects.”

Pearson said TruVista is also working on the underground project, with “as many service lines to be buried” as AT&T, and that the city and TruVista discuss the project frequently.

He said most of the city’s electric line service has been buried, and emphasized the poles will be removed as soon as possible.

“They city owns and will remove the poles,” Pearson said. “We cannot remove the poles until the other utilities bury their lines.”

Complaints about both companies not undergrounding their lines in a timely fashion following the city’s efforts has come up before. During a July 2018 Camden City Council meeting, Public Works Director Tom Couch said it had been very difficult to get either TruVista or AT&T to commit to completion dates in connection with certain projects. At that point, AT&T was “90 percent” complete and TruVista “80 percent” complete for undergrounding along Lyttleton Street, and were not expected to finish until that October and this January, respectively.

TruVista was only “60 percent” complete for undergrounding its cables along Fair Street as of last July, but had been expected to finish back in January. In some cases, projects were not estimated to be completed until the end of this year, if not at points in 2020 and even 2021. In at least one case, that was also because the city had more work to do in certain areas of the city.

At that July 2018 meeting, Councilman Jeffrey Graham said it was customers’ complaints that got the companies moving faster on previous projects and suggested that tactic be tried again.