‘Dig Safe’ stakes tampered with in Leverett broadband buildout

  • Employees of Phoenix Communications install 30 foot utility poles 6 feet into the ground on Lead Mine Rd in Leverett that will suspend fiber optic cables.  Stakes marking the area have been moved.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    Employees of Phoenix Communications install 30 foot utility poles 6 feet into the ground on Lead Mine Rd in Leverett that will suspend fiber optic cables. Stakes marking the area have been moved. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Employees of Phoenix Communications install 30 foot utility poles 6 feet into the ground on Lead Mine Rd in Leverett that will suspend fiber optic cables.  Stakes marking the area have been moved.  Recorder/Paul Franz

    Employees of Phoenix Communications install 30 foot utility poles 6 feet into the ground on Lead Mine Rd in Leverett that will suspend fiber optic cables. Stakes marking the area have been moved. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

  • Employees of Phoenix Communications install 30 foot utility poles 6 feet into the ground on Lead Mine Rd in Leverett that will suspend fiber optic cables.  Stakes marking the area have been moved.  Recorder/Paul Franz
  • Employees of Phoenix Communications install 30 foot utility poles 6 feet into the ground on Lead Mine Rd in Leverett that will suspend fiber optic cables.  Stakes marking the area have been moved.  Recorder/Paul Franz

LEVERETT — Someone has removed and replaced several “Dig Safe” stakes in a part of town where utility poles are being installed for high-speed broadband, and police are warning that anyone who does it again could face criminal charges and be liable for any harm it causes to utility workers.

“We are investigating as much as we can on this, and we are going to start watching the area,” said Leverett Police Chief Gary Billings. He believes the tampering — to stakes on Two Mile Road, Lead Mine and Lawton roads in southwestern Leverett — occurred sometime last weekend.

“What they’ve done is, they’ve moved the stakes that locate the poles, so if the stakes are not in the right place, (the workers) run the risk of driving the poles into electrical wires,” he explained.

“This is the property of the Leverett Municipal Light Plant. It is vandalism of property and it is against the law. If somebody gets hurt or worse, they’re liable.”

“Some residents are upset that this (broadband service) is not going underground,” Billings continued. But, “by moving the stakes, someone could drill into the power source. It really puts the lives and safety of the people working on the line. It’s senseless.”

On Tuesday, the project manager for construction of the $3.6 million fiber optic network reported that five or six stakes had been moved in this neighborhood, where electricity and other utilities are buried underground. The stakes were put in place by the contractor to indicate where the poles are to be placed. Then Dig Safe comes to the site with equipment that gives off a signal where there are buried utility wires. The Dig Safe workers then make marks on the ground where it’s unsafe to dig.

“One of the officers brought it to my attention that some stakes were removed and replaced with homemade stakes, in different locations,” said Billings. “If you move that stake a few feet, and the (worker) doesn’t catch it, he could be digging into the electrical cable.”

Billings said the removal of some stakes means that Dig Safe will have to come back to redo some of the work. Also, the contractor is now asking to have police detail during construction on these roadways, because of the safety concerns.

Billings said the townwide installation is about two-thirds of the way done.

“It definitely throws a small wrench in the project for that area,” said Selectboard Chairman and Broadband Committee member Peter d’Errico.

About 15 utility poles, 30 feet high, are to be installed and will only carry the fiber optic cable. He said a lot of time was spent on where to put the poles, to minimize tree-cutting on those roads.

When asked if he thinks the Dig Safe stakes were moved to hinder the installation of poles, d’Errico replied: “The only thing I can tell you is there has been a fair amount of controversy among some residents of the neighborhood who don’t like the idea of poles. We looked at that in great detail. Burying cable would cost three times as much as using poles.”

“Poles have been part of the design from the beginning,” he said. “My guess is that somebody thought they could rearrange the stakes without causing damage.”

“All the residents — even those who have complained about the aesthetics — have said they want the broadband connection,” d’Errico added. “They just wish it could have been handled without poles.”

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

I think the severest punishment should be give to who ever is responsible for this, so no one try's it again. http://www.westcables.com/

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