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City - Verizon not cooperating on Jonathan Street project

June 14, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

City Hall will try to take on the phone company in an effort to save money on a Jonathan Street beautification project.

According to Engineering Director Rodney Tissue, a lack of cooperation from Verizon could add 12 months and $1 million to a project that would remove lines from the front of homes on Jonathan Street. While the city would like to reroute the wires to the backs of houses, Tissue said Verizon has insisted they be buried under the street.

At their work session Tuesday, Hagerstown City Council members urged staff members to pressure the phone company to accept a less expensive solution.

"I think there is a way - just because of the demographics of the neighborhood - that they should be more compliant," Councilwoman Alesia Parson-McBean said.

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Parson-McBean said the city should negotiate with Verizon for a better deal.

"Let's just call them up and say this would be a great way to give back to the community," she said.

Verizon estimated it would cost $500,000 to bury the lines, but the city's experience has shown the company's estimates often are low, Utilities Director Michael S. Spiker said.

While some of the transmission lines must be buried, others could be routed behind people's houses, saving the city money, Spiker said.

According to information provided to City Council members, the city plans to remove overhead wires and add trees and street lighting to the area. The city's capital improvement budget called for spending a total of $4 million through 2008. Finance Director Alfred Martin said that figure only is an estimate.

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