In the wake of numerous utility breaks and unclear about the direction MCI/Verizon is taking as it pursues fiber installation throughout Town, Farragut’s Municipal Planning Commission — still meeting electronically by Gov. Bill Lee’s orders — denied the company’s latest application Thursday, May 21.
MasTec, a subcontractor for MCI/Verizon, had requested permits allowing it to install underground fiber along North Campbell Station Road, Herron Road, Cottage Creek subdivision, portions of The Cove at Turkey Creek, Stonecrest and Sweet Briar subdivisions, as well as West End Avenue.
The agenda item appeared to be a continuation of a six-phase project first approved last year by the FMPC, although Mike Majka of Verizon told commissioners last week the project is not an expansion — the application was simply a new one. MasTec received approval for permits in December to install underground fiber throughout Farragut in both commercial and residential areas.
As it progressed this calendar year, subcontractors have broken at least three water lines, two sewer lines and a gas line, hit a fire plug, knocked over a mailbox and had damaged at least two segments of Town sidewalks, with numerous residents reporting problems and outages.
“I’ve got a question for (Town Attorney) Tom (Hale) — is he on here,” Farragut Mayor Ron Williams said before the group deliberated the application.
“If we don’t feel comfortable with what we see here, with what we have in front of us, is there a way to ask them to give us a little more clarity on what they are doing, what they are planning on doing for residents where they’ve had water line breaks?
“I’ve talked to some residents on Dineen Drive (in Stonecrest); part of them, not all of them, but they’ve not been notified or had anyone knocked on their door and ask if there has been any damage,” he added.
“If there has been any, I think this company needs to pay for it. From what I can tell, they’ve not done that and I’m not very comfortable going much further.”
Hale provided a rather lengthy response — noting that despite State Law, which governs 5G rollout and implementation — it is his interpretation of statute that “it does not apply to this particular application.
“The reason I say that is because this does not involve small cell tower facilities, which are specifically regulated by the statute,” he added. “Those types of infrastructure are referred to but differentiated from small wireless facilities.
“The long and the short, I think, since this application is not governed by that statute, you can deal with it the same way you deal with First Utility, KUB or any other party that wants to use our right-of-way.”
“I think they need to clean up their act with the residents before we go any further,” Williams said.
Majka told FMPC he was “gonna pause” on the residential portion of the new fiber application, adding, “In our defense, we feel we’ve done an outstanding job.“Sometimes lines get hit, and damage happens, which we try to avoid at all costs.”
FMPC voted unanimously against approving the application, with Majka and a MasTec representative indicating a new one would be forthcoming, possibly in time for the June meeting.