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Eastport residents want ‘horrendous’ steel power poles removed, line buried

Hundreds of Eastport residents attend a public meeting

Hundreds of Eastport residents attend a public meeting Wednesday, July 12, 2017, over giant steel poles installed by PSEG Long Island. PSEG Vice President John O'Connell is at far left. Credit: Newsday / Mark Harrington

The quiet hamlet of Eastport erupted in protest at a public meeting Wednesday night over giant steel poles installed by PSEG Long Island, demanding that the power line be buried.

Hundreds of residents packed a meeting at the Eastport firehouse, challenging a PSEG official to explain how the $31.7 million project was begun without public notice and why the 69,000-volt line wasn’t buried in the first place.

PSEG Vice President John O’Connell told residents and public officials at the meeting that the company may have “miscalibrated” community concern about the 80-foot steel poles, which run along wooded County Road 51 and the hamlet of Eastport on Eastport-Manor Road.

Nearly every speaker urged PSEG to bury the line.

The company will meet with Brookhaven Town officials Thursday to hammer out a plan. Previously PSEG has offered to plant trees around the poles and paint them but stopped short of offering to bury the lines.

After the meeting, O’Connell said: “I think we will be talking about some partial undergrounding” with Brookhaven Town officials Thursday.

Cost, he said, was the major reason the line wasn’t buried. PSEG has said burying the entire line would cost $42 million to $63 million.

All residents who spoke at the meeting took issue with the look of the tall steel poles, some of which are 10 feet in circumference. Some discussed the dangers of the poles so near the edge of roadways, with Elizabeth Raynor of Eastport saying they are “unyielding and cemented into the ground.”

“Those poles are horrendous,” added Manorville resident Doug Ditko. “They have to be buried.”

He rejected PSEG’s offer to paint the big poles. “If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig,” he said.

Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) called the poles “out of character with Eastport,” adding: “Frankly they’d be out of character with any community on the East End.”

Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico called the poles “wholly unacceptable” and strongly denied previous assertions by PSEG that he was informed of the project before it began.

O’Connell said PSEG “decided to move on” from that controversy.

But residents were not so willing to move on.

“You have ruined a pure and simple corridor,” said Eastport resident Randy Proper.

Another resident, Diana Valentini, questioned the speed with which PSEG installed the poles, working seven days over four months. “It’s because you knew it was wrong,” she said.

O’Connell said the speed had more to do with the need to have the larger power lines in place by the peak summer season.

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