WESTFIELD, NJ — A PSE&G proposal to bring taller poles and more powerful electric lines through residential areas of the town has the public deeply concerned, but the project has been delayed.
Residents gathered at a home on Scotch Plains Avenue Monday night learned that state Assemblyman Jon Bramnick secured a promise from PSE&G that the utility would halt the project in Westfield, at least temporarily.
“They assured me they were going to stop their plan and do nothing,” Bramnick told the gathering. “I do not accept their plan.”
Many of the residents also oppose the plan and intend to seek the Town Council’s support on Tuesday in doing the same.
Former Westfield Councilman Jim Foerst, whose neighborhood would be impacted, said that just over 100 residents have expressed opposition to the plan.
While PSE&G will not be represented at Tuesday’s council session, Foerst encouraged the public to seek the local government’s support in opposition to the proposal.
He promised a long fight. “You’re only on page five of ‘War and Peace,’” Foerst said.
PSE&G had said it would replace existing power poles with ones approximately 15 feet taller and install a 69-kilovolt line as it connects seven electrical substations, increasing the reliability of its electric grid. It is a project that has been done in other parts of the state.
The plan also calls for the utility to cut 54 trees and trim 43 more of them to make room for the new poles.
While PSE&G representatives were previously set to present to the Town Council on the proposal on Tuesday, that presentation has been called off.
Bramnick, a resident of Westfield, said he called the utility and demanded that its representatives brief the neighborhood first, before presenting a formal plan to the local government.
“I said ‘that should not happen tomorrow night,’” he told the gathering, referring to the planned council briefing. “‘You should meet with the neighborhood.’”
Council members Dawn Mackey, along with Doug Stokes and Mark LoGrippo, attended the impromptu meeting Monday.
“I understand why PSE&G wants to upgrade the infrastructure, but going through a residential neighborhood is not the answer,” LoGrippo said.
Ken Walsh, a resident of Scotch Plains Avenue, is among the people concerned for what the higher voltage lines would mean.
Walsh, 46, who lives with his wife and three school-age boys, noted that while the studies about living near power lines do not show a definitive health risk, he does not want his family to experience any risk.
And then there’s the look of the lines and the proposed tree cutting.
“This is a great set of streets that are tree lined and have that classic Westfield-looking feel, and you’re going to put a transmission line into them?” Walsh asked.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh