June 29, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Cable firm doesn’t WOW Brunswick neighborhood

Competition among cable companies was supposed to be a welcome change, but residents in one Brunswick neighborhood say WOW! Cable isn’t making any friends.

Homeowners along Skyview Drive say the company has been digging up yards since Aug. 1 to install cable lines without permission or legal property easement.

A yard on Skyview Drive in Brunswick is dug up Wednesday to replace telephone lines damaged by WOW! Cable. City officials say the company has been digging on private property to install cable lines without a legal easement. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY DAN POMPILI)

Chief Building Official Dan Gladish said the company agreed to halt work as of last Friday.

“It was a verbal agreement that the workers would not proceed until the company could resolve the problem with the easement issues on Skyview,” Gladish said.

WOW!, which has a local office in Berea, and the Medina County Fiber Network struck a deal with the city in April aimed at lowering cable costs by providing competition with Time Warner Cable.

State law allows utility companies, which include cable companies, to install new lines within the public right-of-way, but requires easements to do any work on privately owned land.

Gladish said the WOW! workers were digging where other utility lines already exist — about 10 feet from the sidewalk and apparently assumed easements were granted.

Gladish said the cable company now is doing “extensive title searches” to verify the easement exists and could provide the city with that information at a meeting today.

WOW!’s local general manager, Matthew Harper, said Wednesday, “We are aware of the residents’ concerns, and we are hoping to have it resolved here very shortly.

“We’re working with the city to move forward with efforts to bring our services to the residents of Brunswick, and we’re very excited to reach that end.”

Some residents said they asked the WOW! workers not to dig in their yards but were ignored.

Jim Shortle, 3982 Skyview Drive, said some residents were able to “scare them away” with “no trespassing” signs.

He said some residents were told by the workers that they either had easement documents or didn’t need them.

Shortle said considerable damage was done to sidewalks, driveways and other utility lines.

A crew from Frontier Communications was on Skyview replacing a damaged telephone line Wednesday.

Shortle said he and some other residents intend to file complaints against the company for criminal trespassing, criminal damaging, unauthorized use of property, theft and theft by deception.

Gerry Ross, 3928 Skyview Drive, said she is disappointed that the community’s relationship with the company has begun this way.

“It’s sad because we really want the competition, but we didn’t need to have it start in this direction,” she said.

Contact reporter Dan Pompili at (330) 721-4012 or dpompili@medina-gazette.com.