GHENT–The state Public Service Commission wants to learn more about Ghent’s low-voltage alternative to the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation’s proposed transmission line through the middle of the town. And last week the Town Board agreed to hire two engineers to help present the plan to state officials.
The board also approved a deal with TCI that temporarily freezes all legal actions related to TCI’s efforts to rebuild its facility in West Ghent following the huge fire and explosions there last year. The company said in a court proceeding last week that it is seeking to relocate somewhere else.
The power company, known by its initials, NYSEG, has an application before the Public Service Commission to build a new, 11.1-mile, 115-kilovolt transmission line to connect an existing line to a parallel line owned by National Grid. The project, which NYSEG says is necessary to provide backup to a line running between Churchtown and Craryville, would involve building a new switching station in West Ghent and upgrading the Klinekill power substation in Chatham. A public statement hearing was held by the PSC last month at the West Ghent Firehouse, where over 40 residents spoke, voicing concerns to administrative law judge Eleanor Stein about the potential impact the proposed line could have on the environment, landscape and the local tourism industry. The line’s route would dissect residential properties, farms, and run through property owned by Art Omi.
Among those who spoke last month was Town Attorney Ted Guterman, who said that when the town became aware of the high-voltage transmission line proposal, two engineers helped come up with a low-voltage alternative, which would involve NYSEG upgrading existing 34.5 kilovolt lines. However Mr. Guterman said this alternative, which the town believes is a better option with minimal impact on the environment, was never taken seriously by NYSEG.
NYSEG has said that the low-voltage alternative would not be cost effective, but Mr. Guterman said the company has never provided the town with explanations as to why.
At the Thursday, July 18 board meeting Mr. Guterman told the Town Board that the PSC now wants to know more about this low-voltage alternative. He put a resolution before the board to approve to allow the town to retain the two engineers, Richard Gross and Mike Guski, to “assist the town in presenting information to the PSC in connection to the previous proposal to NYSEG for a low-voltage alternative.”
Mr. Guterman said the cost will not be great because the town will only be paying the engineers to present the proposal to the PSC. “It involves a few hours of their time, but it will be invaluable to do this,” he said. “They really have come up with an alternative that… seems to me works. To get this before the PSC is important to the people of the town.”
The board approved the resolution to retain the engineers 3-0. Town Supervisor Larry Andrews and Councilman Peter Nelson were absent.
Also last week the board approved the temporary agreement with TCI to suspend litigation for six months while the company determines where it hopes to rebuild. If TCI, which prepares old electrical transformers for recycling, finds a new home in the next six months and withdraws its application to reestablish full scale operations in Ghent, both sides have agreed to drop all claims against each other.
As part of what is called a “tolling agreement” TCI has also agreed to drop its conflict-of-interest claim against Joe Castiglione, special counsel to the Ghent Planning Board. The pact restricts Ghent officials from interfering in TCI’s efforts should the company seek permits in other towns.
If TCI has not found a new location by the end of the agreement, Mr. Guterman said the two sides may then pick up where they left off. But the deal can be extended if the company and town agree. Resident Mark Johnson expressed frustration last week with the developments. “If they go away, that’s great. But if they don’t, I think it’s going to be an ugly road ahead,” he said during the public comment period. “I don’t see why we had to compromise. We should be in the driver’s seat.”
There will be a public hearing August 15 at 7 p.m. on the latest draft of the Town’s proposed local law regarding concerts, festivals, and exhibitions.