Artie Kamiya came home one day and found a big machine carving up his prized yard.
“They absolutely made a mess,” said Kamiya who lives on Mossdale Avenue in southwest Durham.
The machine left ruts along with bald spots covered with hay, where an AT&T contractor was installing fiber-optic cables for the company’s high-speed internet service.
Kamiya is one of many grousing about the work blocking roadways, cutting utility lines and generally making a mess.
So far about 325 formal complaints have been lodged with the city, said Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson.
“People have had complaints about getting grass seed put back down, having ruts in their yard from where equipment drove through the yard, and the utilities not putting fill dirt or grading the property back, “ he said.
AT&T, Google Fiber and Frontier are laying fiber across the Triangle for much faster service. Google Fiber says it will offer internet speeds about 100 times faster than a typical broadband connection.
In the short term, however, the work is creating hassles for some property owners who may have to deal with one, two or three companies digging in their yards and communities.
The city can’t require the utilities to work together, but officials are working to make sure that they do the job right, Ferguson said.
So far, the majority of work has been done by AT&T, which has installed 125 of the 350 miles it has been permitted to install.
AT&T, which started offering the high-speed service in July, is committed to minimizing disruption, according to a statement.
“Our contractors are trained to obtain proper permitting, closely follow local construction codes, and abide by rules governing rights-of-way and property easements,” the statement said.
Google Fiber’s top priority is being a good neighbor, according to a statement.
“This is a massive infrastructure project, and we’re very sensitive to its impact. If members of this community are experiencing issues, we want to hear from them,” the statement said.
The company hopes to announce soon when its high-speed service will be available.
Neither company has told the city exactly how it plans to build out the network, and the service won’t available to all Durham residents, Ferguson said, as the companies may have trouble reaching certain properties.
It’s not clear what level of service Frontier will provide, he said.
Before fiber is put down, the company laying it has to go through a permitting process. Work on public streets or rights-of-way is governed by a Utility Excavation Permit issued by the city or an Encroachment Agreement from the N.C. Department of Transportation, depending on who maintains the road.
The city expects to pay contractor Kimley-Horn and Associates about $2.4 million over the next three years to help it deal with the huge bubble of work coming down the pipeline, Ferguson said.
“Every foot of fiber is being reviewed by city staff or contractors working for the city,” Ferguson said. “We are looking to minimize the need to dig up sidewalks. We are looking at concerns over trees and tree roots.”
The city has strict regulations about that digging process and inspectors “who go behind them to make sure they put everything back they way they found it,” he said.
The city makes “a robust effort to follow up on every single one of the complaints,” Ferguson said.
In the fall the city shut down AT&T’s efforts amid concerns the company wasn’t being responsive to complaints. More recently the city stopped one crew for working outside its allowed time frame.
In some cases, AT&T and Google may be able to use utility poles instead of burying the cable, but that requires getting permission from Frontier or Duke Energy.
About a year ago, the Durham City Council passed a resolution encouraging the companies to share their poles.
When AT&T started working in the Milan Woods subdivision in April, the complaints started rolling in. A Kimley-Horn representative met with residents from the neighborhood last week and sent and email to Ferguson and AT&T officials outlining 31 concerns. They included pavement repair, holes in the street and yards, a lack of grass seeds and a wooden fenced knocked down.
Kimiya, the homeowner who came home to find a big machine in his yard, complained and AT&T made some repairs, but they weren’t up to Kimiya’s standards.
“I told AT&T it is fine,” he said. “But it’s not fine.”
Kimiya said he is just going to handle the repairs himself. “I just don’t think complaining is going to resolve anything,” he said.
What to expect
Blue, purple, green, orange, yellow, white and pink paint marking will be sprayed on the ground several weeks before construction to identify underground utility lines.
Door hangers are supposed to be distributed at least 48 hours before the work, but the city has encouraged contractors to do it before then.
Work should occur on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but sometimes companies receive permission to expand the schedule.
“In most cases and weather permitting, private property should be restored to original condition within five business days once the construction is complete,” the city’s website states.
Companies are not required to coordinate their activities, which means that another company could start work after another has restored the area.
For more information, go to: http://bit.ly/durhamfiber1
For questions or concerns about construction, call the number on the vehicle, door hanger or the following numbers for assistance. Todd Ireland with Kimley-Horn & Associates, 919-677-2042; AT&T 919-873-9143; Google Support/Construction Line: Call 877-454-6959; Time Warner: Call 919-595-4892.
If you’re not sure which company is responsible for the work or if you’re not satisfied with the company’s response, please call Durham One Call at 919-560-1200 weekdays 8 a.m.to 5 p.m. or Todd Ireland with Kimley-Horn and Associates.