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Opposition mounting against PSEG substation

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO |Petitions on the counter of Bliss's Department Store this week protesting the proposed electrical substation.

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO |Petitions on the counter of Bliss’s Department Store this week protesting the proposed electrical substation.

Shelter Island residents will soon be able to tour PSEG substations up close and operational.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty announced the initiative, first voiced by Councilwoman Chris Lewis a week ago, at the top of the Town Board’s meeting Friday and added further details at Tuesday’s work session.

Mr. Dougherty said the town was in the process of arranging at least one field trip on a town bus with seating for up to 20 to substations in the area.

At the June 17 work session, several residents questioned the wisdom of the PSEG’s proposal to install an electrical substation on town-owned property on South Ferry Road next to the Shelter Island Historical Society’s Havens House.

Opposition to the New Jersey-based power company’s proposal is gathering momentum. On Friday, Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar said the town had received correspondence from Ann Cronin, Peggy and Walter Johnson, Charles and Ann Beckwith, Jeffery Brewer and Richard and Kathleen Krause, all voicing concerns about the possible construction of a substation. The Reporter has also printed several letters in opposition to the proposal.

Bliss’s Department Store on Bridge Street has petitions on the counter that states the undersigned are against a proposed substation on health and safety grounds. The petition also asks the Town Board to “re-install the failed underwater transmission line to Southold, or as a final option, place all equipment at the current Highway Department and Recycling Center.”

As of Tuesday morning, 140 people had signed on.

The transmission line referred to was a $9 million LIPA cable project that ground to a halt after months of missed deadlines, botched work, cost overruns and cheery reports that all was well. LIPA’s contractor was terminated last fall and on January 1 of this year, PSEG took over from LIPA running Long Island’s power supply.

PSEG representatives will be at the July 8 work session, Mr. Dougherty said, to give a presentation and take questions from the board. Sometime after that meeting, a field trip to substations in the area can take place, Mr. Dougherty said.

Councilman Ed Brown said he was leaning against the proposed substation, but still had an open mind. He asked if the PSEG representatives would present alternatives at the July 8 meeting, including running another cable from the North Fork. Mr. Dougherty made a note to inform the representatives of the request.

In other business: The Board turned again to the Fire Department’s request to change the town code on fining home owners for false alarms. After a lengthy discussing of proposed changes in the fee structure and the definition of a false alarm, Councilman Paul Shepherd asked: “Is the horse dead yet?”

The issue was tabled for another day.

Mr. Dougherty announced that no one has responded to a request for a paid an intern to work on identifying the Island’s septic systems to make a first step in building a database.

In early April, Town Engineer John Cronin told the board that dangerous pollutants, including nitrogen, are not being controlled due to antiquated or faulty septic systems. Neither septic systems or cesspools, which Mr. Cronin described as “just a hole in the ground,” does much of anything to stop the flow of nitrogen compounds that poisons drinking water and surrounding surface waters such as ponds, creeks and bays.

Mr. Cronin proposed paying an intern $4,000 to begin the project by looking though Building Department files. To pay for project, Mr. Cronin suggested several options, including taking the money from his salary. Last week the environmental nonprofit organization, the Group for the East End, said it would provide a grant for the money.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Planning Board member Emory Breiner said he’d been in touch with the Suffolk County Health Services Department and was told it would be much easier to get information on septic systems from their records, which were on microfilm and easily accessible, rather than pulling physical files from the town’s Building Department.

“That’s a new one for me, if the Suffolk county Health Department helps cut to the quick on this,” Mr. Dougherty said. “To me they’re catatonic.”

Mr. Breiner also questioned accepting a grant from the environmental organization, which, he said, might put them in a position to set town agendas on cesspools and septic systems.

“I think we’re strong enough to stand up to that, Mr. Dougherty said.

Councilman Peter Reich noted that the town has accepted money from nonprofits in the past, including the Shelter Island Association, to pay consultants.

Mr. Shepherd added, “I just don’t think we’re for sale for $4,000.”