OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — UPDATE: 7/12/2021
People near the neighborhood of 55th and Poppleton are frustrated.
“I mean we have kids that ride bikes, we have people that walk with their children, we have mobility access issues,” President of Aksarben Elmwood Park Neighborhood Association Jen Bauer said. “This is just like the icing on top of the cake.”
The well-known telecommunications company Verizon is placing 5G poles around the area. The most recent one was installed right in the middle of a sidewalk. All of this taking place without the knowledge of any of the people living in the area.
“Typically, when there’s work being done in a neighborhood the association is informed and the neighbors are informed in the direct, immediate area,” Bauer said. “None of that has been happening.”
That includes Jane Manczuk, who woke up one morning in April to crews digging in her yard and planting electrical boxes. Those were the first few steps before finally putting up the pole on the sidewalk right in front of her house about two weeks ago.
“I really wanted to mark my sprinkler heads and I got told that doesn’t matter, they will fix it,” Manczuk said. “So, I’m just waiting to see if that happens.”
The blocking of the sidewalk not only makes transportation more difficult for those without a vehicle but makes it nearly impossible for those in wheelchairs to pass.
“If you’re going to block the sidewalk like this, how many weeks is it going to be inaccessible? That’s a huge issue,” Volunteer and Membership Coordinator of Mode Shift Omaha Shelby Johnson said. “ADA (American Disabilities Act) isn’t just a request, it’s a law.”
The neighborhood residents want answers and it wants to be a part of the conversations that affect them on a daily basis.
“That’s a big issue that we see a lot of times, just a lack of communication,” Johnson said. “A lot more questions than answers at this point.”
“We just want to have a voice in where these poles are being placed,” Bauer said. “We will work with you, but it needs to be in a place where it’s not impacting our mobility.”
3 News Now reached out to Verizon and the City Planning Commission and have not heard back yet.
Omaha Councilman Danny Begley says that he made the Public Works Committee aware of this issue on July 1 and that they will address the situation and make sure this doesn't happen again at their meeting next Tuesday.
On Monday, 3 News Now heard back from Verizon.
"This is a Verizon small cell installation. The planned location for the small cell node at 55th & Poppleton in Omaha was initially near the green space south of the sidewalk between the curb and sidewalk. However, during site planning, it was discovered that multiple utility lines existed in the area. Accordingly, Verizon coordinated with the City of Omaha to avoid the other utility lines by extending the sidewalk south to place the pole on the upper north half of the sidewalk. The sidewalk extension also allowed the pole to be set further from the border of the right-of-way and avoid being closer to the adjacent property. I understand that work will be done soon and I'd suggest you check with the City of Omaha for more information about their plans," Verizon Consumer Group Communications Manager Heidi Flato said in an email.
We'll be sure to follow this story as it continues and bring you the latest information as it develops.