Angry residents have urged PSEG Long Island to stop work on high-voltage power cables on 210 poles stretching from Great Neck to Port Washington.
But David Daly, PSEG Long Island's president and chief operating officer, held his ground at a raucous 31/2-hour community forum Monday that drew nearly 300 North Hempstead Town residents, who urged the utility to bury wires and remove 60 installed poles.
Daly said the five-mile overhead line on 85-foot-tall poles is required for reliable service. "There's no option to stop the project," he said.
The utility, which also plans to install a mile of underground line through Thomaston, said it is open to eventually burying the wires, after financing is arranged and the project is finished, which may be this summer.
Judi Bosworth, North Hempstead's supervisor, criticized the rollout. "We found out about it pretty much when the poles started going up, and we were all literally taken by surprise," she said.
Burying the wires could cost $4 million to $6 million per mile, officials have said.
"If we need to underground the circuit, it needs to be paid for by the residents" of the town, Daly said.
Still, residents railed against the project, some interrupting with calls of "Stop the project!" and "Pull the permits."
Bosworth, who took office Jan. 1, said Tuesday the town's highway superintendent's office in November approved permits to install 23 poles on town roads. Utility officials said they also have received approval from other municipalities.
Town officials are expected next week to propose hiring a consultant to evaluate burying the wires. Bosworth said she plans to lobby federal officials in Washington next week to find funds.
Residents urged state leaders, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, to intervene. An administration official said in an email that the governor "has no authority to intervene in this project, which is why we have asked the Department of Public Service -- the appropriate regulatory agency -- to review it."
The utility is dealing with opposition to a similar project in East Hampton. Residents have urged the utility to halt work on a project that will install a six-mile overhead transmission line through East Hampton village and town neighborhoods on poles that are up to 65 feet tall. They would like the 23,000-volt line buried.
Utility officials have said they will consider burying the lines if financing is arranged, but they have vowed to continue the project, citing critical reliability needs.
Residents at the Harbor Links Golf Course in Port Washington on Monday worried about aesthetics and property values. Perry Rengepis of Port Washington predicted that those who come to town will "see huge ugly poles all over the place."