The Greenport Village Board unanimously agreed Monday to have contract negotiations with energy company PSEG Long Island over its proposal to run an electric cable under Fifth Street and across the bay to Shelter Island.
Village Board members said the deal includes a $1.3 million cash payment from PSEG, as well as road paving work and free installation of an electrical switch that could shorten village power outages.
The benefits, they said, outweigh the temporary inconvenience for Fifth Street residents, some of whom continued to criticized the deal Monday night.
Trustee Jack Martilotta, who lives on Fifth Street, said he supports the deal.
“This is an opportunity to fix the road,” he said. “This is an opportunity to fix that switch gear. This is an opportunity to bring a significant amount of money into this village.”
The PSEG plan calls for laying a 10-inch cable line to Shelter Island beginning later next year to provide the island with additional power. Elected officials on Shelter Island passed a rule that barred PSEG from directly installing a substation on the island, forcing the power company to feed the island power from elsewhere. A prior unrelated attempt by the Long Island Power Authority to run a cable line across the bay from Southold ended in failure.
Greenport’s action Monday night authorizes village attorney Joseph Prokop and village administrator Paul Pallas to begin working on formal contract negotiations with PSEG. Mr. Prokop compared the step to agreeing on a price to buy a house and then working out the contract details to complete the purchase.
“We haven’t inspected for termites yet, to carry the metaphor,” Trustee Doug Roberts said, adding the contract negotiations will cover the “the nitty gritty” and “minutia” details, including a construction timeline and information on how residents will be protected from potential damage caused by construction.
Fear over construction damage was a main concern of several Greenport residents who spoke at Monday’s meeting. Greenport Mayor George Hubbard Jr. assured residents that the contract will include protections for them in the event of damage, such as foundation cracks caused by vibrations from the drill boring.
Trustee Mary Bess Phillips noted PSEG will be looking to “make this as painless for the people on Fifth Street as possible” in order to prevent bad press.
However, the most vocal critics of the proposal were not pleased by the board’s decision Monday, saying the village should have driven a harder bargain with PSEG to get more money. Village Board members didn’t say how much appraisers said the deal should be worth, but Mr. Roberts implied the appraiser’s determinations were less than what PSEG was willing to pay.
Fifth Street resident William Swiskey said he believes the $1.3 million cash offer is too low.
“We’re selling our soul for cheap here, and I mean cheap — $1.3 million is nothing,” he declared at Monday’s meeting. “It’s going to be gone.”
Christian McShea, another Fifth Street resident who’s opposed the proposal, also voiced his displeasure, spending about 20 minutes berating the board for its decision and claiming PSEG will ignore resident’s complaints.
“This is ripping me up so bad,” Mr. McShea said. “I think you’re failing the community and you’re failing Fifth Street.”
Mr. McShea said the board has been “nothing but secrets” about the project and implied he will hire professionals to fight the project at his own expense.
“I’m very resourceful and I’m not going to deal with it,” he said. “And I’ve got time. I’ve got time.”
Village trustees rejected his claims and said the initial terms of the contract are posted on the village website.
Other Greenporters, however, praised the board for its decision and said they trust their elected officials to continue to take their concerns to heart.
“I feel, generally, that the process is going to reach those issues and solve them,” said Dini Gordon.
Ms. Gordon said the Village Board could have been more transparent throughout the process, but also pointed blame at some residents, whom she said weren’t doing enough research before complaining.
Fifth Street resident Seth Kaufman added: “I trust the board got us a good number.” He asked that the final contract be made available to the public long before the board decides on a final approval.
“Then we’ll decide as a community,” he said.
Photo: Deborah Rivera Pittorino of Greenport addresses the Village Board at Monday night’s meeting, expressing her concerns that residents needed more information about the PSEG cable proposal. (Credit: Paul Squire)