By Wayne Allen
December 28, 2013
PDT Staff Writer
Driving down Front Street in Portsmouth on Saturday onlookers noticed a new electrical station that was recently constructed in front of the mural depicting the Stone House in West Portsmouth.
As a result, locals took to social media Saturday seeking answers and asking why this electrical station would have been placed where it was placed.
When asked about the electrical station, Portsmouth Mayor David Malone said he did not know anything about it until he saw it on Facebook Saturday morning.
“I did make a couple of contacts and researched it. I guess I did approve it by signing the approval to get construction underway, but I had no idea that would be the location,” Malone said.
He said plans are underway to take the structure down and move it. Malone acknowledged the deconstruction will come at a cost to the city.
“It was done under the CIP (Capital Improvement Projects) budget, we have funds where it will not come out of the general fund,” Malone said.
Steve Sturgill, President of Portsmouth City Council, said he had received several phone calls Saturday from concerned residents.
“That (electrical station) was a project that was approved sometime ago to upgrade the electrical system on the river front,” Sturgill said. “To be honest, I know for a fact that no one on council had any idea that we would put up an exhibit like that in front of one of the murals.”
Sturgill said it was a project of the city’s community development department and he has been in touch department director Tracy Shearer along with the engineer on the project and instructed them to redesign and relocate the station.
When asked about the logic to put the electrical box in that location Sturgill said, “I can think of no reasonable explanation why we would have put that electrical station in front of one of those murals. I’m sure there is plenty of other space along that street, that would have been suitable.”
Sturgill equated the placement of the electrical station to putting graffiti on the mural.
“It costs money to put those murals up and to put something like that in front of one of them is, as far as I am concerned, just like putting graffiti on it. It’s just uncalled for,” Sturgill said.
Councilman Kevin W. Johnson took to Facebook to address the matter, “Council has just been advised of this unsightly electrical junction in front of one of the city’s murals. Quite honestly, Council is not amused. Please be assured we shall take steps to ameliorate this situation.”
Bob Morton, President of Portsmouth Murals Inc., said he was disturbed when he learned what had happened.
When asked for his reaction Morton said, “It needs to go away.”
“That’s an interesting mural because it shows the Stone House and that completely covers up the Stone House. Which is one of the most interesting historical points in the whole area,” Morton said. “I don’t think we need this in front of any mural, but the Stone House is a bad choice.”
Calls to Shearer were not immediately returned.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.