Internet service providers Shentel and Glo Fiber came under fire at Wednesday's Frederick County Board of Supervisors meeting, with residents claiming property damage and carelessness by workers.
According to residents in the Westmoreland Drive area near Stephens City who spoke during a public comment period, work crews associated with those companies have wreaked havoc by refusing to stay in easements when laying fiber optic cables, imperiling trees, damaging yards and more.
"My concern is the fiber optic project that has been going through our neighborhood with no communication, no advanced warning. They come in, they start digging, and they cause all of this destruction in our yard," Paula Tingle said. "No restoration, no remorse."
Crews hired by Shentel and Glo Fiber were scrutinized as well as Verizon subcontractors.
Some of those who spoke thought the Shentel and Glo Fiber crews were working under county contract, but reached by phone the next day, county staff and supervisors said that's not the case. "The companies are in no way shape or form under contract with the county," said County Attorney Roderick Williams.
"This is not a county-licensed project. It is a company working by itself for itself," said Supervisors Chairman Charles DeHaven. "I've gotten a lot of calls. What the citizens need to do is call the sheriff and report them for trespassing."
"I have also experienced considerable damage to my property at the hands of the Verizon crew. They have cut the tree roots, and we are already losing that tree at a rapid rate," said Kyra Pulliam. "They had to be forced to pick up trash from my driveway, and I had a very sick dog because of it. We are having similar problems with Shentel. I have literally had the opportunity to fuss at these folks on a regular basis."
A representative from Glo Fiber addressed some of the complaints at the meeting.
"We hear the complaints. We do. And I'm sorry — that's not the kind of company we strive to be, that's the not the kind of company we intend to be. I will be in the lobby at the end of the meeting and want to make sure all of the complaints are satisfactorily resolved," the representative said. "We're investing millions of dollars in the community, and we're not making that investment just to come out and make a mess of it."
DeHaven responded: "You will have to convince us of that. Good luck."
Reached by phone Thursday morning, the situation had not improved along Westmoreland Drive.
"They are back," said Jerry Tingle. "They are back this morning digging up yards and out of their zone." His wife added: "It's a nightmare. What am I going to come home to?"
The Tingles are concerned they could lose 20-year-old Leyland cypress trees that act as a windbreak and afford their property privacy. Crews left wires exposed and wrapped around a tree when working last month, they said.
"I get phone calls like this all the time. You find out they are not staying in the easements," said Supervisor Robert Wells (Opequon District). "The rapport between my constituents, other people in the county and the companies is in a really bad place. They (the crews) have actually said 'get the heck out of my way,' using worse language than that and they are going to do what they want to do. I've instructed my constituents to call the sheriff's department at this point if they have a problem."
"What the citizens need to do is call the sheriff and report them for trespassing." -Charles DeHaven
Folks, please do not waste the time of the Sheriff's Office over something that is completely legal. Mr. DeHaven, the entire Board of Supervisors, and a LOT of my neighbors here in Frederick County need to read up on Utility Right-of-Way laws. ShenTel/GloFiber has every right to put cable down and they can come on your property. Just as REC/SVEC/Dominion, Verizon, Columbia Gas, Comcast, etc. They are utilities and can use the police departments to allow them access.
Mr. DeHaven and the BOS are clearly misunderstood on the laws of this county and this state.
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