Pole inspections lead to more replacements

SALEM – An inspection of the poles supporting traffic lights in downtown Salem revealed three at risk of coming down like the pole at Broadway and State, city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst said Tuesday.

That pole snapped at the base on a recent Friday afternoon, sending the traffic lights crashing to the street. Luckily no one was injured and no vehicles were damaged, but the issue prompted city electrician Mike Bibbee to have the rest of the traffic light poles checked for weld strength and wall thickness.

As a result of that $1,000 inspection by a private firm, Kenst said a pole at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and State Street will be removed Sunday morning and replaced, with police officers directing traffic during the process. The other two poles with serious problems are both located at Ellsworth Avenue and State Street and will also be taken down and replaced at a later date.

Kenst said the new poles will be galvanized, which will make them more weather resistant. They’ll be painted black to match the rest of the poles when weather permits.

This Thursday, the pole that crashed at Broadway and State will be replaced. He said they’ll know more about the report and the condition of the rest of the poles in a couple days.

The Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks Committee of city council will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday in council chambers regarding the street light issue.

When asked what caused the problem, Kenst said the poles were rusted and had nearly 20 years of wear and tear since their installation in the mid-1990s. He blamed part of the problem on the fact that the poles were not galvanized.

He explained that the Ohio Department of Transportation handled the project, which came after the downtown revitalization when the bricks were placed in the sidewalks and in crosswalks. He was told ODOT required galvanized poles as part of the light pole contract, but the contractor did not use galvanized poles. The city was not involved.

He noted that the poles were reportedly already painted black when they came so there was no way to know they weren’t galvanized.

City Law Director Brooke Zellers said he’ll check to see if the city has any recourse since the poles were supposed to be galvanized and were not.

Kenst stressed that any new poles will be galvanized to prevent rust.