PLANO — Much to the dismay of many homeowners, the latest addition to many Plano neighborhoods are tall poles — not for residential utilities or phone lines, but for the city's own wireless network.
There are dozens of locations where the poles will be installed for police officers and firefighters to access the municipal wireless network.
The city says the towers are necessary for public safety.
Homeowners call them an eyesore.
Telephone and power lines in several of those areas are buried underground. Street lights are decorative lamps. That’s why neighbors were upset when tall poles started popped up in the middle of their neighborhoods.
"They're pretty unsightly," said Stephanie Blakeman, who lives a few houses down from one of the towers. "They're an eyesore."
For more than two years, Plano has been installing an extensive wireless network for police and firefighters. Information they usually access at their desks back at the station is now available in the field.
The network covers 94 percent of the city. In the other six percent, the city doesn't own the light poles.
CoServ agreed to replace 32 of its lamps with taller poles that will hold Wi-Fi equipment; Oncor refused.
"Oncor has maintained a stance that they own these poles and look at the integrity of their entire system," explained David Stephens, Plano technical services director. "They're not willing to let us modify their existing assets."
To complete the coverage area, 172 new poles must go up, most of them in the middle of neighborhoods.
"It's not something we wanted to do," Stephens said. "We've been working with the utility companies for several years, trying to come to an agreement. And we did come to an agreement with Co-Serv. But Oncor was adamant that they would not work with us."
Unhappy homeowners said they understand the need for public safety Wi-Fi, but they wish the city would come up with other sites that aren't so unsightly.
"I'd like us to see if there's a possibility to explore other alternatives that wouldn't be in the interior of a neighborhood," said Plano homeowner Cary Conway.