• 43°

Woodpeckers pose pole problems for the city

Woodpecker nests at the Dr. A. L. Lott Baseball Sportsplex are costing the city $73,000.

City Engineer Mike McKenzie recommended to the Brookhaven Board of Aldermen Tuesday that they approve the purchase and replacement of 13 of the 14 utility poles at the baseball complex on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

The poles are riddled with woodpecker holes and many are hollow and contain nests.

“You can stand on second base and see blue sky through some of those poles,” McKenzie said.

Workers with Brookhaven Parks and Recreation discovered the damage a few weeks ago and the recreation department’s board declared an emergency. McKenzie sent quote packages to seven contractors. He expected to get at least three quotes by the deadline, but received only one. A second contractor was held up in traffic and arrived 10 minutes late. By law, quotes must meet the deadline given to be accepted.

Brookhaven Electric’s price is $72,950 to replace 13 70-foot poles.

The poles will cost $5,611 each. Recreation Director Matt Shell replaced one of the 14 utility poles a few years ago and it cost $6,800.

“It’s within the price range of what we expected it to be,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie played video footage for the board Tuesday of a woodpecker nest filled with a half-dozen eggs that was four to five feet below one of the holes.

The nest was 30 to 40 feet off the ground, about halfway up the pole.

Brookhaven Electric will take down the existing poles, take the lights off, put new poles up and put the lights back on.

For an additional $4,500, the poles will be wrapped with wire mesh to serve as a deterrent to woodpeckers.

The city will pay for the cost of the poles and the recreation department will pay to add the wire mesh and for any bulbs that are broken during the transfer.

“They’ll probably have some bulbs that get knocked out in the process and we’ll do that as needed for $100 a piece,” McKenzie said.

Ward 2 Alderman Shannon Moore asked if any of the new bulbs will be upgraded to LED. McKenzie said it would be the same type bulbs that were already being replaced.

“That’s how they figured this out,” McKenzie said. “They were out there replacing some of the blown bulbs and that’s how they figured out they had all these woodpecker nests.”

Before voting, Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameron suggested they request donations from area electrical companies and college vocational departments.

Public Works Director Keith Lewis said he’s made calls, but rules for donations are so strict he’s not expecting they’ll be successful in that quest.

Moore made a motion to pay for the poles and installation with the recreation department assuming the cost of the wire mesh and any additional bulbs needed. It was seconded by Ward 4 Alderman Jason Snider. The board voted 5-0 in favor of it. Ward 3 Alderwoman Mary Wilson arrived at the meeting late and Alderwoman-At-Large Karen Sullivan was absent.

McKenzie expects the new poles to last 20 to 25 years. The damaged poles appear to be 16 to 30 years old.

Shell said the four utility poles surrounding the basketball court aren’t damaged and won’t be replaced.

Roy Smith with Brookhaven Community Action Group said Wednesday the A. L. Lott Baseball Program’s season will be complete in three weeks and they have no plans to change locations or cancel games. The Little League’s championship game is Friday, he said.

“Right now we are slated to finish up the season in mid-July,” Smith said.

The program serves about 250 players each year.

The poles are on backorder and work won’t start to replace them for six to eight weeks.