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Some Salisburians unhappy with installation process

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
Jimmy Thompson of Overhill Road is one person not thrilled with the way Atlantic Engineering Group has been laying underground conduit for the city’s future fiber-optic cable system.
“We had no warning that this was coming,” Thompson said after installation of the conduit began at the edge of his yard last Thursday.
“Nobody got any sort of warning at all. … We just feel a little bit put out.”
The Post has received calls of at least two other cases where Salisbury residents were dissatisfied with the work connected to laying the conduit underground.
Mark Parr, project manager for Atlantic Engineering Group, says people with complaints or questions should call him or the city’s broadband services director, Mike Crowell, so any issues can be investigated.
Parr and Crowell said Tuesday the contractor has been trying to alert neighborhoods three to five days ahead of the installation crews by putting yellow hangers on front doors. The door hangers describe the work headed their way and include a telephone contact number.
Crowell said the city also has signs on order to inform whole areas of pending underground work.
Crowell said the contractor probably will replace some sod around a vault that was installed at Thompson’s address.
“He had a valid complaint,” Crowell said.
Parr said his company and its subcontractors are going to great lengths to avoid damage at the edge of people’s properties.
“Atlantic Engineering Group, in general, takes a great deal of pride in the restoration we do and how we leave an area when we’re finished,” Parr said.
Salisbury City Councilman Mark Lewis said Tuesday he has had 10 or more people compliment the job AEG is doing and its attention to detail, to the point of coming back and spray-washing their lawns or replanting sod that died.
Much of the underground activity adjacent to people’s yards involves the digging of several pits and, toward the corners of properties, the setting of vaults flush with the ground.
The sod where the pits are dug is carved out to be set back in place later. Dirt from the pits is shoveled onto a tarp and packed back in later once the conduit has been “missiled” in, so to speak.
Where there’s a good stand of grass, Atlantic Engineering Group’s restoration doesn’t have to include new seed and straw. After two mowings, Parr said, the grass on the right of way should look like it’s back to normal.
“Lots of times, you can’t tell they have been there,” Crowell added.
Along vacant lots where the appearance of a lawn is not an issue, the crews are more likely to dig a conventional trench for the conduit and put down seed and straw.
Parr said some of Atlantic Engineering Group’s recent work in the city has been confused for underground utility work AT&T is doing. Generally, if you see seed and straw after underground work in front of houses, it’s AT&T not AEG, Parr said.
“We’ve had a lot of complaints that aren’t really ours,” Crowell added.
AEG will always try to carve out and replace the sod when it can, Parr said. He encouraged residents to make sure they water those patches in case of any extended dry spells.
There are times when dirt from the pits and trenches spreads onto streets, driveways and lawns and has to be cleaned off by his crews, Parr acknowledged.
Crowell said the city opted to go with the vaults because they can be mowed over and are less conspicuous than the cable and telephone pedestals now common at the edge of properties where the lines are underground.
It’s from these vaults where the fiber-to-the-home connections will be made for people who opt for the city service.
Meanwhile, Thompson said he thinks the city is acting “awfully high-handed”‘ in its installation approach, which surprised his whole Woodfield neighborhood, he said.
“We feel like we’ve had our face slapped,” Thompson said last week. Thompson plans to stay with Time Warner Cable, and he voiced his strong displeasure with the city’s even getting into the cable business.
“What this City Council needs is a good cleaning out,” Thompson said.

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