Belmont neighborhood residents mad at newly positioned Duke utility poles

By: Paul Boyd

Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Residents of the Belmont neighborhood in east Charlotte are fighting mad at Duke Energy and the city of Charlotte.

Dozens of very large Duke utility poles started popping up a few weeks ago and many are positioned in the middle of the sidewalk.

"They chose going right through a neighborhood to put these power poles in," said Ed Glodowski, who has lived on Pegram Street the past two years.

Bret Kilgo, senior construction inspector for the Charlotte Department of Transportation, wrote Glodowski an email.

"...we did not realize at the time this permit was approved by the city that Duke Energy (was) replacing the old poles with new poles that are basically twice the diameter of the old ones...," the email read.

Glodowski said the email proves the city of Charlotte made a mistake in the permitting process.

"I think they should change the poles," Glodowski said.

The city actually shut down construction briefly and met with Duke Energy before agreeing to allow the project to continue.

A spokesperson for the city said the post-project condition of the sidewalk "will meet all applicable standards" and said it asked Duke Energy to pour "temporary concrete in order to provide sufficient sidewalk width during construction."

That temporary concrete looks like a "Do-It-Yourself" project gone wrong. The concrete is uneven and poses a tripping hazard.  

The American with Disabilities Act also requires a minimum width of 36 inches for any paved sidewalk.

However, Whistleblower 9 measured concrete edge to concrete edge and found at least two poles on that block alone are not compliant with federal law.

Glodowski said an additional 17 poles don't follow city code for distance from the curb.

Duke Energy told Whistleblower 9 it needs to keep up with Charlotte's growing demand for power.

The utility also said the larger poles are an engineering solution that meets all requirements and that there is "no change in the plan" for the Belmont neighborhood at this time.

That's not what Charles Burch wants to hear.

Burch, who lives on Pegram Street and uses a motorized wheelchair, showed Channel 9 how he barely squeezes through the new sidewalk openings and said one section, in particular, makes him afraid to leave his house at night.

Burch fears falling over or being hit because he needs to use the street when it's dark.

The Belmont community believes there were other paths to bring new power lines around their neighborhood.

Several residents also believe Duke is taking advantage of a low-income neighborhood.

"Let's just go ahead and do it. This neighborhood won't care," Glodowski said, voicing his assumptions about how Duke proceeded with the work.

The city ultimately took the positions that placing utility poles in the sidewalk is "occasionally unavoidable due to space constraints" in some older neighborhoods.

The city's statement includes this line:

"CDOT staff does not possess the technical expertise to review design requirements of electrical utility plans, but does review and inspect for impacts to city streets, trees and public sidewalks, etc.

Questions regarding the design requirements for pole size should be referred to Duke."

If all of that is true then who is keeping an eye on the size of the utility poles that Duke Energy chooses to install on its "right-of-way" projects?

"Everyone is susceptible to this problem if they don't have a representative that works for the city that can analyze Duke or any electrical installations," Glodowski said.

The city of Charlotte and Duke Energy have agreed to meet with residents in the Belmont community on Tuesday evening.

 

Full Statement from city of Charlotte

August 3, 2017

"Duke Energy (Duke) applied for and was issued a Utility Right-of-Way Use permit to add additional energy capacity to their facilities along Pegram Street in order to serve their customers. Pegram Street has above-ground utilities with limited room within the right-of-way for utility poles, a common situation in older, residential areas of Charlotte. After hearing concerns from the residents about the size of the new utility poles, and the reduction of the useable sidewalk width, CDOT instructed Duke to stop placing the new poles until appropriate City and Duke staff could meet to discuss the residents' concerns.  After meeting with Duke, City staff visited Pegram Street on July 31 to measure the useable sidewalk width between the new poles and the edge of the existing sidewalk.   Finding that applicable codes were met, Duke was allowed to resume work.  After hearing more concerns from the residents about the new utility poles, CDOT staff revisited Pegram Street on August 2.  CDOT again found that the post-project condition will meet all applicable standards, and directed Duke to pour several sections of temporary concrete in order to provide sufficient sidewalk width during construction.   

Placing utility poles in the sidewalk is occasionally unavoidable due to space constraints. 

CDOT staff does not possess the technical expertise to review design requirements of electrical utility plans, but does review and inspect for impacts to city streets, trees and public sidewalks, etc.  Questions regarding the design requirements for pole size should be referred to Duke."

Jordan-Ashley Walker

city of Charlotte

 

Full Statement from Duke Energy

August 7, 2017

"The Charlotte area continues to grow and we need to keep up with the growing energy demand to serve our customers. In order to keep up with the growing energy demand, we have to install new infrastructure so we are able to power homes and business that depend on us. We work with cities, other utilities and communities to minimize the impact as much as possible and to develop the best plan to safely serve customers.

In these situations, at times we are limited in the space available for needed power equipment. Many times, we must work in established rights-of-ways to serve our customers especially in congested/developed neighborhoods and communities.

We must build to the National Electric Safety Code requirements to help ensure power equipment is installed safely. National Electric Safety Code requirements include both electrical insulation (generally achieved by conductor/power line spacing and height) and loading standards (e.g. for applicable wind and ice loading contingency).

On power poles, all equipment weight (downward force) and angles (side force) have to be balanced. Pole guying is often used for balancing side forces caused by angles. Larger diameter poles and pole depth can be used to balance side forces when there is not adequate space or rights-of-way for guy wiring.

For the project on Pegram Street, we are setting some new poles that are larger in diameter to accommodate for an additional power line and equipment needed to serve the growing number of customers in this area. These poles are being installed due to inadequate space to install guy wires and/or lack of rights-of-way in this community."

Meghan Miles

Duke Energy | Corporate Communications

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