SOMERS, N.Y. – Plans to dig up miles of a half-century-old natural gas pipeline in Somers and replace it with a 60 percent larger pipe have been shelved—at least for now.
Following the existing right-of-way, the controversial dig looked to unearth about 2.5 miles of pipe from the Yorktown line, through The Preserve housing development, and continuing into Mahopac. But Algonquin Gas Transmission told federal regulators late last month that it was putting expansion plans on hold.
“This is good news, for all those residents,” Supervisor Rick Morrissey said in announcing the pause at last week’s town board work session. But he emphasized that the pipeline plans remain very much alive. Calling the suspension a “temporary stay,” he said, “It doesn’t mean they won’t come back two, three, four, five, six years from now.”
Algonquin’s ambitious plan—“Access Northeast”—calls for replacing parts of the aging transmission pipe that carries natural gas from Lambertville, N.J., to the Boston metropolitan area. A $3 billion project, it had worked its way this year as far north as Yorktown and had already secured Washington’s OK to begin the so-called “Atlantic Bridge” portion, which includes the Somers digging.
But the pipeline, which encountered stiff resistance in Westchester, has also run afoul of judges and regulators farther up the line.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the Atlantic Bridge segment late last year. But while FERC’s power trumps that of local authorities when it comes to pipeline construction, state courts in Massachusetts and regulatory agencies in Connecticut and New Hampshire took a different tack: They blocked complex financing arrangements meant to pay for the pipeline’s completion.
Algonquin, the pipeline builder, was a subsidiary of Spectra Energy, the project’s original parent. Enbridge Inc. acquired Spectra and the pipeline plans earlier this year.
Town eyes digital forms
Somers could simplify municipal paperwork by eliminating, well, paper—in everything from tax collections to permit applications—under a tech-driven process outlined for the town board last week.
The proposal, by technology startup SeamlessDocs, would convert the town’s myriad paper forms, applications and bills to digital documents, accessible by computers, smartphones and other portable devices.
In an hour-long presentation at the town board’s work session last Thursday, Seamless’ Ted Lord said his company’s digital solution promised “better service across the board in a more cost-effective way.” Under a three-year contract, Somers would pay a $5,000 startup fee to convert paper forms to digital and optimize the town’s website, then $10,000 a year to maintain the site.
The board will study Lord’s proposal.
Rec chairman steps down
In separate actions, two veterans of Somers’ recreation program are moving up—and out.
James Papa, the longtime chairman of the Parks and Recreation Board, is packing up and moving south. He officially notified the town of his departure in a letter late last month. He and his wife, Lynn, the secretary for the Parks and Recreation Department, are moving out of Somers, Morrissey said.
“Jim Papa and his wife, Lynn, have made such a wonderful impact on Somers, and will be sorely missed,” Morrissey said. “Jim being on the Parks and Recreation Board and Lynn being the face of the Recreation Department and dealing with the public; we really appreciate all they’ve done for the town and we wish them the best.”
Meanwhile, a popular recreation supervisor, Andrew Johnson, has been promoted to the $74,469-a-year post of assistant superintendent of parks and recreation.