ELIZABETH, NJ – Residents from Cranford and Westfield turned out in strong numbers at the Union County Freeholders meeting Thursday night to lobby against a plan for taller utility poles and more powerful electric lines slated for the two municipalities.

The concerned residents filled the room, and about 25 of them spoke to the board at length on their opposition to the plan before the freeholders approved a resolution supporting municipal officials’ efforts to relocate the 69-kilovolt wires planned for residential zones to outside those areas.

While PSE&G has cited the importance of a more reliable electric grid, residents in the two suburban municipalities have raised concerns about the planned 65-foot-tall utility poles, including those about a potential decline in property values, the poles’ appearance and the anticipated removal or trimming of trees near the upgraded lines.

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The freeholders recommended a period of public comment and investigation before the utility adds the more powerful lines. PSE&G has said it must upgrade the wires to maintain the reliability of its electric grid. The planned poles would stand 15 feet taller than ones they will replace, according to the utility.

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While the freeholders' resolution has been in the making for several weeks, two days before the board met, municipal officials in Cranford and Westfield had announced a plan they said would significantly change the route of the poles, skirting residential areas in Cranford and scrapping a plan to run lines the full length of South Avenue in Westfield.

The updated arrangement with PSE&G, if approved, then would have the lines avoid residential areas by running them along a Conrail right of way and through Ash Brook Reservation in Scotch Plains. That plan has yet to be finalized.

PSE&G has said it is refining engineering and cost estimates for that plan and anticipates more specific estimates by May 24. The freeholders approved the measure by a unanimous vote with some members adding their names to the resolution.

The outcries in Cranford and Westfield have not been matched in other Union County municipalities, where the utility has already installed the poles or anticipates installing them.

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