WESTFIELD, NJ — Negotiations between the town and PSE&G have yielded an alternative to a controversial plan for more powerful electric lines and taller utility poles but with details on that alternative not fully decided, residents continued their protests at simultaneous meetings Tuesday night.
Mayor Shelley Brindle had announced that the alternative route would have less impact on homes and trees and that PSE&G has set a workshop to share the full details with the public next month. Brindle promised the town would detail more specifics in a news release by Friday.
The announcement, however, did little to quell the concerns of residents, who spoke to the Town Council and Board of Education as an online petition opposing the plan for more powerful electrical lines on taller poles neared 2,000 signatures.
“We won’t hesitate to explore all available options, including legal action to protect our children, to protect our trees and to protect our town,” Ed Kevelson, a spokesman for “No Monster Power Lines Westfield,” the group opposing the original pole replacement plan told the council.
Brindle said municipal officials detailed to PSE&G the specific issues with the proposed route, prompting PSE&G to come up with the alternative, something other municipalities with concerns about similar projects have not been able to do.
“We drove the original proposed route with them to point out the specific neighborhood impact and why it is unacceptable,” Brindle said in a statement. “We then reviewed a PSE&G recommended potential alternate route with less residential and tree impact and gave them additional feedback to further address these issues which they are working on.”
Both municipal officials and PSE&G declined to delineate the alternative route on Tuesday, saying its specifics are still being worked out.
“We are discussing an alternate route for the line that still includes Westfield,” said PSE&G spokeswoman Karen Johnson in an email. “We are working out the details and will share the alternate route with Westfield [town] council members for their review.”
PSE&G’s plan to increase the electric grid’s reliability, installing 65-foot-tall power poles and running a 69-kilovolt line through residential areas of the municipality as it upgrades an existing 26 kV line had angered the neighborhood, prompting the petition in opposition.
At the school board meeting, residents Mary Roth and Suzanne Welsh spoke on behalf of the community opposition group sought the school board’s support in opposition to the plan for taller poles.
“It’s a big concern, we are looking to the board for your help and for your support,” Roth said.
Welsh and Roth say the board needs to pay close attention to the project, particularly because it could include installations close to Edison Intermediate School and Kehler Stadium.
“This is a massive project,” Roth said. “The school needs to be involved in the process.”
Board President Peggy Oster said the school board’s prime concern is any impacts on students. “We will continue to follow the project,” Oster said. “What is foremost for us is the safety of our students.”
Board member Gretchan Ohlig raised concern that the PSE&G project could impact children’s routes walking to school amidst a project to redo Gary Kehler Stadium.
“If this plan were to go forward, while that construction is happening, it’s going to seriously disrupt the kids’ ability to get to and from school or to and from Kehler,” Ohlig said.
The workshop with PSE&G officials is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10, at the Westfield Memorial Library, 550 East Broad St.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at email@example.com; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh