BEND, Ore. - (Update: Pacific Power plans to move box in about three weeks)
Pacific Power officials said Wednesday a transformer box found to be in the middle of a southeast Bend sidewalk, prompting protests, will be moved in about three weeks.
Spokesman Ton Gauntt said the utility wanted to thank disabilities advocate Brian Douglass “for bringing this to our attention.”
“After quickly assessing the site and consulting with the city, we have decided moving the transformer is the right thing to do,” Gauntt said. “It will take about three weeks to plan the job and get approvals. The work itself should only take a day.”
Gaunt also said there will be an outage for area residents during the move, the length and extent of which will be determined in final planning. Customers will be notified at that time.
During a neighborhood spruce-up, residents discovered the transformer box sitting in the middle of a sidewalk on Southeast Sonata Way. It's about impossible for someone in a wheelchair to make it around without going in the street.
After Jane Gayer's late husband had to start using a wheelchair to get around, simple tasks like getting the mail were made hazardous, thanks to the box.
"Every time we did it, we had to go into the street because of this box," she said Tuesday. "You couldn't possibly clear this with a wheelchair."
Brian Douglass, an advocate for compliance with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, said he was just clearing branches along the sidewalk when he uncovered the box. He calls it a violation of the act.
"You can just look at it, and you can see that there's no way anybody can get up that sidewalk with that big box," he said.
But people with disabilities aren't the only ones who could be affected by it.
"There's a lot of families around this area," nearby resident Cole Wehrli said. "I've noticed a lot of mothers walking their kids in strollers and things like that, which might have to divert into the road."
Gayer added, "I see people with strollers come by here all the time, and they have to go out my driveway. And there's typically a lot of cars parked on this street because of some of the businesses who are allowing their people to park here."
City Manager Eric King told Douglass and city Accessibility Manager Karin Morris, as well as City Councilor Barb Campbell, in an email Tuesday afternoon that Pacific Power is "planning on moving this box to ensure an accessible path."
King said the subdivision permit was approved in 2001 but sat dormant for years due to the recession.
"Based on the order of sequence determined from the permit files, the power boxes were installed first and the sidewalks were completed when homes were constructed over a period of time," King wrote.
"There appears to be a change in the field that strayed from the plans," he added, "and there is no paper trail as to why that changed." King said the inspector assigned to the project later retired, "so unfortunately I cannot provide a reason for why this happened, but can tell you it was permitted correctly."
The city's practice since 2011 "requires plan modifications to be processed before work is changed in the field," the city manager added. "It appears as though this incident took place before we changed our policies."