Backyard Power Pole Project Upsets Orange County Neighborhood

A $1 billion infrastructure improvement plan will affect neighborhoods from Orange County to Mammoth

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A dispute between energy officials and Buena Park residents is getting heated as SoCal Edison moves ahead with a project to replace more than 50 electricity poles near the backyards of several homes. Vikki Vargas reports from Buena Park for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 13, 2014.

    Residents of an Orange County neighborhood became irate Thursday after a power company began working in homeowners' backyards without advance notice.

    Intending to upgrade power poles that were more than 50 years old, Southern California Edison (SCE) and its contractors filled Poinsettia Drive in Buena Park with what one resident described as a “forest of (power) poles and a street filled with work trucks.”

    But the residents' frustrations turned out to be the result of miscommunication.

    Although city workers said they had a legal right to work on the property, some residents tried to keep them out because they weren't happy about the sudden construction.

    "I know California is too big for them to mess with," resident Chuck Perry said. "Whereas stepping on me, that's easy."

    “Unfortunately, some of the residents didn’t want us there,” SCE Public Affairs Manager Eddie Marquez said, acknowledging upset neighbors who initially denied workers property access.

    Some thought the voltages on the lines in their backyards would increase, while others weren’t sure why workers were there in the first place. Residents believed that they were receiving the runaround from SCE when they tried to get answers from the workers on site.

    "They won't tell us what they're running overhead," resident Kelly Oliver said, of the lines in his backyard. "They just keep saying, 'Don't worry about it, it'll be fine.'"

    An SCE spokesperson told NBC4 the company is replacing old power poles in Buena Park and other SoCal cities as part of a $1 billion infrastructure improvement project planned in 2013.

    The Buena Park stretch of the project, according to SCE, will make 54 poles stronger in the event of a wind storm or earthquake.

    “Ultimately, as we upgrade the facilities, it improves the reliability of their system,” Marquez said, noting that the voltage levels on the lines will stay the same.

    James Biery, director of public works for the city of Buena Park, told NBC4 via email that the power poles are in private utility easements within the public right-of-way.

    This means city engineers do have legal access to the utilities. But workers said they did not have to notify residents about Thursday’s installation project because it was SCE's project, not the city's.

    On behalf of SCE, Marquez said he reached out to residents -- including those with reservations -- to gain access to the property and expedite the upgrades.

    As of Thursday evening, all residents had agreed to give SCE and its contractors property access.

    Residents in the area will be without power for one to two days. But Marquez said SCE has upped its manpower to finish by Friday.

    After Buena Park, the infrastructure project will continue to improve other neighborhood facilities from South Orange County to Mammoth.

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