The Town Council on Monday approved an agreement with Public Service Electric & Gas over the Susquehanna-Roseland power line project, which crosses the southern part of the town near the border with Andover.
Under the agreement, PSE&G is paying nearly $80,000 to help train and equip town firefighters for dealing with incidents on high-voltage power lines. Some of the money will also be used to “mitigate the potential impact” to residents along the right-of-way during construction, and to plant trees to mitigate visual impacts of the project. The lines cross into Newton near Route 206.
While the utility doesn’t have all the necessary permits from the state for some work on the 45 miles the lines will travel through New Jersey, work has begun on other sections.
The National Park Service has given permission for the new lines to be built across the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area but a group of environmental groups has sued in federal court to have that decision overturned.
The present set of lines carries 230 kilovolts of electricity. The utility’s plan is to take down those lines and the towers which carry them and replace with 185-foot tall towers which will carry two sets of lines each capable of carrying 500-kV of electricity.
Newton will also allow the company to construct access roads for use as the new towers are built and to dismantle the existing towers.
Town Manager Thomas Russo said the town’s attorney had raised an issue of PSE&G holding the town harmless from any lawsuit which could arise from the power lines.
“That was a couple of years ago and we never heard from them,” Russo said before the council’s meeting. “Then we recently heard from them asking about the agreement and our attorney said we were waiting on their answer to the hold-harmless clause.”
Mayor Sandra Diglio said the company agreed to include that clause in the settlement.
“We are the only one in the 15 municipalities to get language protecting our community,” Diglio said.
The lines also cross the Sussex County townships of Stillwater, Andover, Fredon, Byram and Sparta. In addition, a new substation to serve the Susquehanna-Roseland and another set of transmission lines is being built in northern Hopatcong.
Those municipalities, as well as Fredon school district, also reached monetary agreements with PSE&G. Most of the towns received money for training and mitigation.
Pool fees adjusted
In other action, the council introduced an ordinance that amends fees charged by the town, including an increase in fees for the town pool.
But at the same time, the ordinance creates a new class of patrons, “Friends of Newton,” which allows a discount membership for volunteer firefighters, retired and active duty military and anyone who is employed by any business in Newton.
A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for the council’s meeting at 7 p.m. on Nov. 26.