Utilities respond to wild wires

Wires hang like spaghetti from poles at the intersection of Queen and Legare streets.

If you're at Queen and Legare streets and look up, you'll see wires hanging like black spaghetti from the telephone poles.

Look closer and you'll notice some of these poles are twins — two poles standing side-by-side when one apparently would do.

And look down and you'll see thick metal guide wire anchors — minus the wires — sticking from the sidewalk, good for tripping people and nothing else.

Nearby resident and Watchdog reader Nick Mihalas said he's frustrated with the overhead mess, extra poles and tripping hazards.

Sloppy work by the utility companies not only make the neighborhood look bad, he said, but some wires and equipment aren't secured to the poles and could become hazards in high winds and hurricanes.

He said he's complained for years. "It's always someone else's problem when we call a utility," he told Watchdog.

Turns out that telephone poles have become the equivalent of rent-a-sheds: Places for cable TV, phone, power companies and others to put their stuff.

South Carolina Electric & Gas owns the bulk of the poles in the area and charges AT&T, Comcast and others to rent space on these poles.

But AT&T also owns some poles, and SCE&G sometimes rents space on theirs.

All this makes it difficult to figure out who to call and report a problem. So Watchdog called all of them.

Bill Watson, vice president and general manager for Comcast, said crews went to the area Tuesday, looking for loose wires and code violations. Crews removed some wires and restored a fiber wire canister that had been improperly strapped on a pole. "It shouldn't have been left like that," he said.

Scott Grigg, supervisor of public affairs for SCE&G, said he and the company's technicians visited the area several times this week. He agreed that the wires were a mess. Poles in that area carry lines for SCE&G, Comcast, AT&T and the city of Charleston's Department of Traffic and Transportation, he said. There's even a defunct fire alarm circuit hanging from one pole.

"Extra poles are a problem," he said, referring to the problem of new poles standing next to old ones. "We try to take them out when we can."

He said that four extra poles at the Queen and Legare streets intersection belong to AT&T, and that SCE&G notified AT&T, Comcast and the city about the situation. He and another employee examined the guide wire anchors and found that they also belong to AT&T.

Amy Bristle of AT&T said all the companies that have cables on the poles are shifting lines to the new set of poles, and that once this work is done, the extra poles will be removed.

Laura Cabiness, the city's public service department director, said the utilities are responsible for maintaining the poles and wires hanging from them.

So, if you have a problem with wires or telephone lines in your neighborhood, here's who to call:

--SCE&G Customer Service: 1-800-251-7234. Scott Grigg, SCANA public affairs supervisor (576-8649) advises that before you call customer service, look for a plate on the pole and jot down the number. That will help them locate the pole. Also, if the pole doesn't have a plate or a number, there's a good chance it belongs to AT&T, he said.

--AT&T: 877-737-2478 or 611 from an AT&T phone.

--Comcast Customer Service: 554-4100