WESTFIELD, NJ – Concern over an electric company’s plan to plan to replace power lines along South Avenue with taller poles and more powerful wires continues to rile residents and town officials, who clashed on the topic during a council session on Tuesday.

The plan has had residents worried since the public learned about a previous proposal to run the lines through more residential areas of the town. Following the strident objections, PSE&G scrapped the first plan in favor of the existing one, which would add the more powerful wires along the full length of South Avenue.

“If we allow these monster poles to go up, any south side beautification efforts sadly would be tantamount to putting lipstick on a pig,” said resident David Krieger, who told the council he supports burying the more powerful electric lines underground.

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Krieger said that hesitation to bury the lines has to do with funding and he asked his local government to explore the costs of underground lines.

“Undergrounding the transition line is simply the price of admission for Westfield to remain a desirable and competitive town for residents in the region,” said Krieger, who is with the Westfield opposition group No Monster Power Lines – Westfield. “I submit that Westfield should have serious conversations with PSE&G about undergrounding the lines.”

Mayor Shelley Brindle said officials have discussed placing the line underground, however, the cost of doing so has yet to be determined. “We got them to consider an alternate route, which is unprecedented,” said Brindle, who also said she does not want to speak for the utility.

Responding to the ongoing resident concerns, PSE&G issued a statement shortly before the 7 p.m. council session. The utility said it has installed about 400 miles on the upgraded lines in 93 municipalities and by the end of 2023 anticipates it will have upgraded 570 miles of lines.

PSE&G’s plan is to connect power sources with 69,000-volt lines, commonly called 69 kV lines.

“These upgrades are needed to address the demand for electric reliability throughout PSE&G’s service territory,” the PSE&G statement said. “As populations have increased and consumer electronic needs have evolved, the 26 kV legacy networks of the last century have been taxed. The addition of a 69kV network will alleviate the demands on the existing 26kV network.”

While some council members questioned who first knew what about the proposal, Councilman Doug Stokes sought to unify local efforts.

“It is not a partisan effort here,” Stokes said. “This is bipartisan. We have to stick together as a town council. We have to stick together as a community.”

An information session on the plan was set for Wednesday at Edison Intermediate School. The utility moved the time ahead by one hour to account for a vigil for the late Westfield High School Principal Dr. Derrick Nelson, which is also occurring that night in Westfield.

Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh