Dewey resident and businessman Alex Pires, who filed a lawsuit against Verizon in June seeking the removal of five 5G poles on the beach and the prevention of more installations, said he is convinced the telecom will do anything in its power to avoid taking down the poles.
“Verizon has reneged on its promise to move the five poles they installed on the beach,” Pires said by email Sept. 17. “I don’t think Verizon cares one bit about Dewey Beach or its beaches, or the promises they made.”
Efforts to work with Verizon went on all summer, Pires said. Homeowners were upset when they learned Verizon had installed five poles on the dunes. Town commissioners; Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth; and Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, all complained to Verizon, Pires said.
Dan Dionisio organized a protest against the poles, Pires said, and he, Diane Cooley and John Snow filed the class-action lawsuit against Verizon to stop them from proceeding with more installations and in hopes of forcing the company to take down the poles.
The lawsuit states that three poles were installed without permits being obtained from Dewey Beach, and two other installations didn’t follow proper permitting requirements.
“During this time, Verizon made repeated promises that they would remove the poles,” Pires said. “The good news is we got an injunction from Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III to prevent Verizon from adding more poles on the beach; the bad news is since that time, Verizon has refused to take down any of the five poles.”
Verizon spokesperson Chris Serico said Sept. 15 that Verizon could not move forward on relocating poles because of the pending lawsuit; Pires said his lawyers tried to secure a speedy trial.
“As an example of their bad faith, we asked the court for a two-day trial and the court quickly responded, offering six dates during the first two weeks of December during which the trial could occur, and thus [get] the matter resolved,” Pires said. “Plaintiffs quickly agreed to all of the dates. Verizon, represented by a law firm with hundreds of lawyers, refused all the dates, saying they were on vacation during that two-week period. “
Glasscock has set a status conference for Oct. 5, at which time Pires said he will again ask for a trial date.
“In the meantime, the Town of Dewey Beach has been provided money to pay for the cost of moving the poles, a generous effort by Pete Schwartzkopf and Legislative Hall to help Dewey protect its beaches,” Pires said. “I know people are going to read this and be disappointed, but this is what happens in America when a small town with a few employees and no assets other than an old building and a few cars takes on one of the richest companies in the world.”
Dewey Beach commissioners voted unanimously Sept. 10 to enter a funding agreement with the state, which would provide $375,000 to the town for relocating the poles Verizon installed. The town has three years to use the funds, and must come to an agreement with Verizon to move them.
In response to Serico’s statement that Verizon started conversations with the town about moving small cells from Clayton and Cullen streets to existing Delmarva Power locations, Town Manager Bill Zolper said Verizon has not spoken to him, Assistant Town Manager Jim Dedes or Building Official Daune Hinks about the poles since June.
Verizon needs to move all five installed poles, not just the ones on Clayton and Cullen streets, Zolper said Sept. 17.
Jeffrey Smith of watchdog group Dewey Citizens for Accountability said Verizon needs to take accountability for moving the poles.
“Delaware taxpayers should not be forced to pay Verizon’s need to remove its own beachfront eyesores, done in winter months without any public notice or town permits,” Smith said. “Sticking the taxpayers with a huge bill for relocating Verizon’s beachfront-blocking poles they alone installed without permits is not a solution consistent with corporate accountability.”
Serico could not be reached for further comment.