February 26, 2014

A Better Way

The verdict is in on the new PSEG transmission poles being installed in East Hampton: the monoliths are an incredible eyesore.

A little history: LILCO used to periodically trim tree branches to prevent ice from forming on them, which would in turn cause branches to snap and land on electric lines. The trouble was LILCO did a haphazard job, the workers too often turned in sloppy work and didn't clean up afterwards, and on some occasions the trimmed branches landed on private property - like fences and more than one car. LILCO would promise restitution but if we recall correctly it seldom materialized.

After a rash of power outages over the past decade East End residents began to believe trimming the branches was preferable to sitting in the dark. The PSEG effort took it a step further: aggressive trimming, and taller, stronger poles.

Give the company some credit: we've seen more PSEG trucks and workers in the past two months than we did LIPA or LILCO in any given year.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell is to be lauded for his efforts to try and coerce the state to use some federal post-Sandy funds to bury power lines. It probably falls into the category of a good bluff, however – it's hard to imagine Governor Cuomo will agree that tearing down newly erected polls is the best use of FEMA funds, especially with so many areas still in distress from the superstorm.

The bad guy, to hear the new administration tell it, was the former town supervisor Bill Wilkinson, who according to Cantwell gave the OK to the new poles. Current town board members who are holdovers from the last administration aren't talking; it's hard to believe that the matter didn't cross their desks in some way or form last year.

PSEG claims to have held a public informational meeting in East Hampton about the new poles and apparently no one attended. If that is true the company and the town should have done a better job of getting the word out. Maybe there is enough blame to go around, but Wilkinson rightly should shoulder a goodly share of it – the approvals were given on his watch.

Assuming we are going to have to live with these eyesores for the foreseeable future, maybe now is a good time to start discussing a switchover to underground cables, as quickly as finances allow. When a similar proposal was championed on Scuttlehole Road in Bridgehampton the projected costs were staggering. Certainly taxpayers aren't going to be able to fund such an ambitious project, and PSEG, already footing the bill for the new poles, is working under a mandate from the governor to reduce rates.

One thing is for sure: if these poles don't hold up to the next superstorm they have the girth to crash right through roofs and level entire houses.

Just Wrong

Kudos to State Senator Ken LaValle for strongly objecting to Governor Cuomo's proposal to put prisoners through college while they are incarcerated – and let the taxpayers pay for it. Cuomo says it will cut down on repeat violators; we say mandate longer prison sentences and tighten up parole boards.

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