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Four Seasons Residents Agree Substation is Needed, But Concerns Remain

Mayors Don Purdy and Gary Giberson met with Four Seasons residents on Thursday, Oct. 4.

Three weeks later, the residents of Four Seasons got the hearing they wanted.

Between 40 and 50 residents met with Galloway Mayor Don Purdy and Port Republic Mayor Gary Giberson Thursday afternoon, Oct. 4, in the Four Seasons ballroom.

It was a meeting Purdy and Giberson wanted, too.

“At the last meeting, I said to (Atlantic City Electric representatives) ‘when does it start’ and they said it was ending,” Giberson said. “I told them people are leaving angrier than when they came in.”

Giberson was referring to an informational session hosted by Atlantic City Electric on Sept. 13, when the electric company invited Four Seasons residents to discuss a planned substation at the intersection of Moss Mill and Wrangleboro roads, south of the Port Republic Waste Facility.

Following the information session, the mayors opted to host their own Q&A with residents. Officials from Atlantic City Electric weren’t invited to the meeting.

Although the facility will be in Port Republic, and all decisions must be made through the political process in that town, it will have an impact on Galloway residents in Smithville, particularly in Manchester Village in Four Seasons.

The mayors acknowledged the substation was a “done deal” but wanted to hear the concerns of the residents so that any concerns could be addressed.

It was at that meeting that Purdy and Giberson suggested potential alterations to the 1.5 acre project that is projected to cost between $5 and $7 million, and they shared those changes with the residents on Thursday.

Purdy explained that the station must be between 15 and 30 feet away from the nearest property, but they requested the site be pushed back another 15-20 feet, for a possible maximum total of a 50-foot buffer.

Giberson spoke of the possibility of an easement.

“We own that property back there, but having an easement would allow us to give part of that property to (Atlantic City Electric), and that could mean an extra 35 feet in back of the property,” Giberson said.

That option will be explored at a Port Republic Planning Board meeting in November, he said.

The maximum height of the substation is 30 feet, and Atlantic City Electric agreed to plant trees that would grow high enough to cover the substation. At first, the trees would be between 10 and 12 feet high, but once they root, they grow rapidly, Purdy and Giberson said. The density of the individual trees is similar to that of a Christmas tree, meaning one wouldn’t be able to see through them to the substation from the street, and they would be planted in such a way to make the landscape seem natural, Purdy and Giberson said.

The electric company will also maintain the trees, including replacing them as they die.

Purdy said previously, the electric company had planned to plant six-foot trees.

They reiterated the need for the substation due to the growth in that area that has been a strain on the existing substations.  The additional substation would cut response time for the electric company, meaning an outage that might have been resolved in three or four days previously would be resolved in three or four hours.

When Purdy asked those in attendance if they felt the project was necessary, everyone agreed that it was.

That didn’t mean the residents were completely without reservation, with a major concern being why the substation had to be put in that particular location.

“The wires are already there,” Giberson said. “There’s no need for any new wire to be put in, except for the dropoff.”

Others were concerned that the substation would have a heavy impact on Galloway, but Port Republic would collect the tax breaks. However, Giberson was quick to point out that while townships used to collect tax breaks from substations, that was no longer the case.

“The governor gets the money,” Giberson said. “It’s been a big fight between the League of Municipalities and the New Jersey Mayors Association. We used to get $87,000 from our substation, and now we get nothing. We don’t see one cent.”

The question remained why Galloway didn’t pursue the project when Atlantic City first purchased the land in 2007. Purdy wasn’t elected until 2010, and had no answer.

Councilman Tom Bassford, who was mayor at the time, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

The issue of notification was also addressed.

Atlantic City Electric is legally required to notify those who live within 200 feet of the proposed substation about the project.

When discussions concerning the project began in 2008, the electric company notified K. Hovnanian, the company that owned all the properties at the time, but the residents claim they were never notified.

Resident Frank Piotrowski was still concerned about fire safety. Piotrowski has been vocal about the residents’ concerns, and he led a private, residents-only meeting following Thursday’s meeting.

The residents will then continue their discussion with Atlantic City Electric.

The project is scheduled to run from spring, 2013 until the end of the year.

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