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New poles may be installed in Lawrence neighborhoods as part of Black Hills wireless meter-reading project


If you still get riled up about a new cell phone tower being erected in the county, you’re so stuck in the 1990s.

These days, the argument is just as likely to be about communication equipment that is erected right next to your house.

Perhaps some of you remember that a few residents of Old West Lawrence expressed concern about AT&T installing large boxes of communication equipment on city rights-of-way near people’s homes. The boxes were for AT&T’s U-Verse service, and the city was caught a bit off-guard by the trend. But city officials have since created a new agreement that covers placement of that equipment.

Well, the trend continues, and this time it is with the city’s largest natural gas company: Black Hills Energy. Black Hills Energy plans to begin an Advanced Metering Infrastructure project in the city. If you are a meter reader, that should make you cringe because meter readers, it appears, likely will have time to hang out with telegraph operators and pager salesmen.

What it means to everybody else is poles. There likely will be more poles springing up in the city. The poles will house an antenna like device, a communications box and a solar panel. Based on what I previously have heard from Black Hills, most natural gas meters in Lawrence send out a signal that contains your usage information.

Currently, a van full of equipment drives up and down the streets of Lawrence and captures the signal and the data. But with the new system, strategically placed antennas will capture the data and send it to a central billing location. That will eliminate the driving up and down the streets of Lawrence to read the meters.

Black Hills is proposing 29 antenna sites. Ten of the sites are on existing traffic signals. The remaining 19, however, will require the installation of a new pole. Click here to read a report that includes a full list of the sites.

As proposed most of the poles will be placed on city right-of-way, — a couple will be on property owned by Black Hills — meaning most of the poles will show up in places where you would expect to see a street light, for example.

Public Works Director Chuck Soules told me most of the poles will be about 30 feet tall. , The city and Black Hills have created some photo illustrations that indicate the poles will be as tall, or perhaps a bit taller, than a standard street light pole. Soules said Black Hills wants to start work on the project immediately.

City commissioners will get briefed on the project at their Tuesday evening meeting. It will be interesting to watch how the project unfolds. The technology has caught the interest of the city. The city reads thousands of water meters each month, and most of them are still read by people who walk up to the meter and record the data.

According to a city memo, the city has “discussed the opportunity to possibly share some of this technology/infrastructure with Black Hills.” There doesn’t appear to be an immediate change on the horizon, but according to the memo, Black Hill has indicated a willingness to cooperate when the city is ready to pursue the technology.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday.

A photo illustration of what a Black Hills meter reading pole may look like in a Lawrence neighborhood. Courtesy of: City of Lawrence.

A photo illustration of what a Black Hills meter reading pole may look like in a Lawrence neighborhood. Courtesy of: City of Lawrence. by Chad Lawhorn


Betty Bartholomew 5 years, 1 month ago

That...is unsightly. Not that utility poles are usually nice to look at, but that is particularly eye-sore-ful.

fithawk 5 years, 1 month ago

A pole is a pole is a pole. Let's pick our battles.

joes_donuts 5 years, 1 month ago

Anyone notice that at the same time we are looking to hire a consultant to look at our fiber network, we have black hills looking to put up wireless poles...

Lawrence already has fiber going to every neighborhood. It would not be difficult to sell them services that could do the same thing as these ugly poles.

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