Tag Archive for: threat to public safety

When Does an Amenity Become a Threat to Public Safety?

I have received a flood of complaints recently about a threat to public safety: the Comcast/Xfinity installation by Aspen Utilities now underway in Kingwood. Yesterday, I experienced the threat firsthand when an Aspen crew cut into a neighbor’s CenterPoint gas line. Ironically, the CenterPoint line had already been exposed and identified. Fire department and CenterPoint personnel were shocked and shaking their heads in disbelief.

Sadly, this was not an isolated instance. It raises questions about the competence of the installers and whether having a third internet provider in a crowded utility easement is a threat to public safety.

A Brutal Wake-Up Call

Yesterday morning, I heard a noise near my driveway. Upon investigation, I found two fire trucks, EMS and CenterPoint had sealed off my entire block (near Kingwood High School). Aspen had cut into a CenterPoint gas line. The scene looked like this.

Aspen truck in foreground. Emergency equipment stretched out for a block.
HFD ran a hose to the gas-line break. Traffic in background was stopped then turned around.
Contractors were standing well back from break on opposite side of street. Note more emergency equipment down the street.
Hydro-excavation trucks like these locate and expose other utility lines so companies like Aspen can dig around them.

The crew of the hydro-excavation truck above had located the gas line and exposed it after digging a 20-foot trench in a neighbor’s yard. Regardless, the Aspen crew managed to cut the gas line anyway.

Fire/EMS crews responded in an abundance of caution even though no fires or injuries resulted from the incident.

The incident cut off traffic on Valley Manor for several hours. And while first responders were standing by here, they weren’t available to handle other emergencies elsewhere.

Houston EMS charges residents for call-outs. Are they charging Aspen?

Recurring Problem

If this were an isolated incident, I would be praising the first responders instead of condemning the apparent incompetence of Aspen. This isn’t the first time such an incident has happened in my neighborhood.

A CenterPoint employee told me that he often receives three to four such calls a day in Kingwood.

To me, that constitutes a threat to public safety. And raises some questions about the competence of Comcast contractors.

As an HOA board member, I’ve received dozens of complaints about Comcast/Aspen incidents and also heard from other HOA’s. Problems have included, but are not limited to:

  • Damage to sewer lines which caused sewage backups/overflows in homes
  • Damage to driveways and sidewalks
  • Water main disruption
  • Electricity disruption
  • Damage to landscaping
  • Excavations left open and unprotected (subject to fines up to $2000 by the City of Houston Department of Neighborhoods).

These are not nuisance complaints related to noise or aesthetics. With the exception of landscaping, they’re serious safety hazards.

I’ve heard of one family forced to leave their home for weeks because of damage caused by Aspen and its subcontractors. Stories pour in almost daily. Damage has run into the tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in some cases.

Third Time Isn’t the Charm

Comcast’s installation is the third such project in recent years. Suddenlink, aka Optimum, upgraded its old coaxial system to optical fiber. Then Tachus entered the market. Comcast quickly followed.

No utility installation is problem-free. However, in my opinion, neither of the first two efforts seemed to cause as many problems as Comcast. Nor did the problems seem to be as severe.

Others may disagree with that. Especially those who were damaged. But based solely on my call volume and hours spent dealing with complaints, Team Comcast is the “winner” of the Kingwood Smackdown.

Damage Issues Complicated by Compensation Runaround

I have no prior experience with Comcast. Nor do I have any old scores to settle. Also know that I’m a great believer in competition. If Aspen were compensating people fairly for damage, I might be more understanding.

But another neighbor’s driveway was seriously damaged by Aspen and/or its subs. They apparently parked a hydro-vac truck on top of the drive and/or drilled under it – perhaps at different times – while the homeowner was away.

After the homeowner called numerous Comcast and Aspen people around the country, Aspen said they would pay for the damage.

Then, they sent “a former detective with police experience” to investigate. He denied the claim based on a crack that showed up in a Google Street-View photo taken before the incident. The denial happened even though an Aspen VP said in an open community meeting, “There’s no way one of those trucks should have been in a private driveway.”

The homeowner is still arguing with Aspen. Aspen refuses to acknowledge the difference between a pre-existing crack and a deeply rutted and deformed driveway with large chunks jutting up, and other areas smashed down and crumbling.

The irony is that earlier I stood on the driveway in question with that VP from Aspen when we were trying to solve another problem related to the placement of a Comcast junction box. He knows the driveway didn’t look then like it looks now.

My advice:

  • If you see Aspen coming, immediately take “before” photos of your property. You may need them in court to prove damages.
  • Notify everyone in sight if problems develop – immediately. That includes Aspen, the City, Comcast, your insurance company, your neighbors, your HOA and your lawyer.

Team Comcast seems to thrive in an environment where people don’t compare notes and see patterns.

Unanswered Questions?

Why should a utility’s right to offer service give it the right to damage property?

Why doesn’t Aspen have better supervisors in the field?

Who at Comcast is supervising Aspen?

And who at the City is supervising Comcast?

For More Information on How, Where to Report Damage

Comcast and the City claim they aren’t hearing about damage from Kingwood residents. How can you make sure the right people hear about what Comcast and its contractors did to you? See this post or click on the picture below.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/28/2023

2251 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.