Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

October 17, 2013

Neighbors question National Grid plan to dig up street

By Bill Kirk

---- — The good people of the Algonquin Avenue neighborhood are not happy with National Grid.

“Power disruptions are annoying at best and damaging at worst,” Carl Guild of 14 Algonquin Ave. reported at last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

Guild represented several neighbors who are not only upset by power outages, but also by the utility company’s proposal to dig a trench on their properties to replace an aging, underground power line.

“I don’t want to go through this and then in a year or two have them decide that it doesn’t work,” he said. “We’ve been through several of these.”

National Grid went before selectmen for a public hearing on their proposal to install 2,535 feet of 2- to 4-inch conduits along Algonquin Avenue and 1,215 feet of 2- to 4-inch conduits along Comanche Place, Sioux Circle and Seminole Circle. Electric lines along those streets are buried rather than attached to utility poles, as in most neighborhoods.

A representative for the utility company said during the hearing that the company has been having outage problems in the neighborhood and needed to dig up and replace the so-called primary lines, which carry high voltage to the secondary lines, also known as the service lines that power the houses.

The work will be done along the even side of the streets and will include digging a trench that is 2 1/2 feet wide and 30 inches deep, he said. The cable will be installed in a conduit and then encased in concrete, he said. Underground transformers in the area will be dug up and replaced with above-ground transformers as well.

When asked how long the work would take, he said he wasn’t sure but that it would continue until at least spring.

In the meantime, whenever residents can’t gain access to their driveway because of the trench, heavy, steel plates will be put down to allow people to get to and from their homes.

The primary conduit, he said, is 4 to 5 feet off the edge of the pavement, meaning the trench will go into lawns that may or may not have fences and other landscaping. He said while the work will impact residents’ front yards and shrubbery, he assured that everything would be returned to its original state or better.

Janet Swartz at 22 Algonquin Ave. was concerned about underground sprinkler systems and wondered what plans were being made to make sure they weren’t damaged. She also said she has wires in her front yard that help guide a robotic lawn mower that need to be moved before the yard can be dug up.

“We ask that the plans be more accurate so people have an idea if the trench is in their lawn or not,” she said.

Guild asked if National Grid had done a cost-benefit analysis of the repairs and whether it was really needed.

“In their street-opening permit, is there an analysis that justifies doing this?” he asked. “Did the town get a quantifiable analysis of the gain? What is the percentage of outages that will be eliminated by replacement of the primary line?”

He added, “Will this fix it?”

Selectmen delayed a vote on the proposal for a month until National Grid could supply answers to the neighbors’ questions.