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Village residents raise concerns over Fifth Street cable project

A detailed construction plan for the proposed PSEG Long Island project to run a cable line under Fifth Street and across the bay to Shelter Island will be available within one or two weeks, according to village attorney Joseph Prokop.

Residents at Thursday night’s Greenport Village Board meeting expressed concern that neither village officials nor the public have yet to see the plan. Mr. Prokop said it will be available for inspection on the village website and residents will be given the opportunity to ask additional questions and comments.

Greenport and Shelter Island continue to work in tandem on separate contracts with PSEG that if signed will signal approval of the project to improve service to the Island. No final contracts have been signed by either Greenport or Shelter Island Height Property Owners Corporation (HPOC) officials, although both the Village Board and HPOC General Manager Stella Lagudis and have indicated they are currently favoring the project.

Residents on Thursday had a chance to raise questions or concerns about the project. Some expressed a desire to be named as covered by insurance should their properties sustain any damage. Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said the village had plans to take pictures of properties before work gets underway to document any issues that might already exist versus damage that could be a result of construction.

At an earlier meeting, residents asked PSEG to put up an escrow account from which they would be able to draw funds for immediate repairs. But the utility company countered with village negotiators — Mr. Prokop and Village Administrator Paul Pallas — that it could set aside some part of the $1.3 million it’s due to receive to allow the project and draw money for such repairs.

That seems unlikely to happen, judging from the non-responsiveness Mr. Hubbard and trustees gave to that suggestion at the meeting.

PSEG is aiming to start the project in September after Labor Day and to have it completed before the tourist season begins in May 2018.

Residents also worried about issues such as excessive noise or contractors parking their vehicles in front of driveways.

Mr. Hubbard assured that any violation of the contract could be grounds for stopping work and declaring the contract had been breached.

Under those terms, PSEG would be responsible for restoring any area that had been disturbed by their work to date, Mr. Prokop said.

That was not a good enough answer for Fifth Street resident Christine Nusse.

“You need more leverage; you need more power,” she told the Village Board. “You have no power at all.”

Aside from Mr. Pallas overseeing the work with a general contractor assigned to the project by PSEG, residents were told the village would be hiring a liaison who lives in the area and is familiar with such projects to make judgments about whether PSEG is complying with its contractual agreement.

Mr. Hubbard wouldn’t identify the person he has in mind for that job, but said he hasn’t yet reached out to determine if that person would accept the job. That person would work for the village, but would be paid by PSEG, he said.

The New York Department of State also monitors the project for compliance, Mr. Prokop said.

Current plans call for workers to tackle the job six days a week for 11 hours each day. Residents would like to see that cut back to five days a week with assurances that the 11 hours would include both setup time each morning and cleanup time each evening.

Resident Bill Swiskey, former village utilities director, raised concerns about the size of manholes that would be created along the route, placement of fencing for the project and questioned how much of the work would involve digging on sidewalks and curbs. He also questioned the depth of the cable, fearing if it was only three feet deep, it could be uncovered in stormy weather.

In response to a question from resident Jane Ratsey Williams, Mr. Hubbard said no work would start on the Greenport side until drilling the tunnel that would surround the cabling was completed.

PSEG would retain a 50-year easement to the areas where construction is done with three 50-year renewable options for maintenance. But any new projects or added cables in the area would have to be done under a separate contract, Mr. Hubbard said.

While Mr. Prokop and Mr. Pallas answered a number of questions, they promised to bring other concerns to PSEG.

Photo caption: Village resident Sarah Edwards speaks at Thursday’s meeting. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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