Verizon, Town Stuck at Permit Impasse

Verizon, Town Stuck at Permit Impasse

Telecomm firm to work up to three months on South Elden

There's a fine line running underground South Elden Street in the Town of Herndon and it's turning into a legal issue between Verizon and the town.

The fine line is Verizon's cable damaged by Cox Cable last Nov. 2 and the desire by Verizon to not just repair the damaged cable, a 150-foot stretch, but to also conduct upgrades. The upgrade requires a stretch of 430 feet, including the section to be repaired, said Town of Herndon director of Public Works Ron Colan.

"Cox severed three cables on Nov. 2," said Verizon spokesman Paul Miller. "We made a quick fix to restore service to customers, but realized more work needed to be done — building a manhole and putting in additional conduits. We put temporary steel plates over where the street was dug up and applied to the town for permits to complete our work."

"It's scary to think what the impact will be on our traffic," said Councilman Michael O' Reilly. "There's no easy solution."

As long as the town and Verizon are at a standstill, traffic will continue to flow on Elden Street. "This is in their best interest," Colan said of Verizon's need to complete its work. "I don't know why they're not camped on my door."

"The town has been reluctant to grant permits and they filled in the hole. We did not want to have the hole filled in — it could damage the temporary splices," said Miller. "The ball is in the town's court. They have to decide on the permits."

Colan agreed with Miller's assessment, adding, "the ball is in my court." Permits have not yet been issued due to a debate over the necessity to pay permit fees to the town by Verizon.

"It has to do with the Telecommunications Act of 1998 exempting them from franchise fees," said Colan. "It's a legal issue." There is language referring to an exemption of "street opening permit fees," said Colan. "Some municipalities agree with the Town of Herndon and some don't agree," he said.

The City of Falls Church agrees with the Town of Herndon while the City of Roanoke doe not, said Town Attorney Richard B. Kaufman. "This is a legitimate disagreement between the two entities," he said, noting that the issue has been taken up in the Virginia General Assembly via HB 551 sponsored by Del. Thomas Davis Rust (R-86th).

The bill regarding public rights of way use fees is currently in the Committee on Transportation, a committee Rust serves on. Rust is familiar with the problem first hand as the town's most recent former mayor.

<mh>Hardly Working?

<bt>Another reason for the permit delay, said Colan, is the current impasse regarding the work shift schedule.

Verizon said the job would take two to three months to complete the work, working one or two shifts per day, said Miller.

Colan said the town wants the work done either in three shifts working 24-hours a day to lessen the congestion time, or to work when the roadway is most available by working around the rush hours.

The Town Council, considering the human suffering potential and economic impact on the local businesses on South Elden, said, as a body, that Verizon needs to be more flexible and not to think in terms of traditional shifts.

"The issue is the impact on the neighborhood — residents and businesses," said Colan."

"This repair work is a necessary evil," said Town Councilman Dennis Husch. "I do wish, however, that Verizon was a better corporate citizen to the town and would show at least some sensitivity to the citizens of this community who use the roads by moving their cable runs from the middle of Elden Street to the utility strip on the east side of Elden Street so it would forever be out of the roadway."

"I do not look forward to the traffic disruption and delays that will occur during Verizon's work to repair Cox damage to Verizon structures. This is another unfortunate example of Cox Communications' negative impact on everyone," said vice mayor John De Noyer.

"This will clearly be a lose-lose situation for the folks who live and work in our town because it will cause major congestion around the intersection of South Elden Street and the Herndon Parkway," said Councilman Harlon Reece. "It's unfortunate that Verizon is not being more cooperative."