Substation project likely to go ahead

Mary Perham

Construction of the Bath, Electric Gas and Water Systems substation on Fairview Drive is likely to go forward, despite the outrage of nearby residents.

Fairview residents were told Tuesday some of their concerns about the mammoth substation are unfounded, and it is too late to do anything about issues raised earlier in an environmental review application.

Residents have voiced environmental, appearance, noise and safety concerns about the project.

Asked whether comments in the application should have led to an environmental study, village attorney John Leyden said, “Maybe it should have, six years ago.”

The project application, approved in March 2007 by the BEGWS commission and signed by the utility’s Director Matt Benesh, showed the substation would affect the neighborhood in several ways. However, the commission did not launch an environmental study or hold public hearings.

Leyden said once the application is approved, it is good for the life of the project and not limited to 18 months, as some residents suggested at prior meetings.

Compounding the problem for residents – and village officials – is the project’s history. Village officials said the review and plans were drawn up by the original project consultants, Booth Associates. When Booth dropped the project, it was picked up by PLM, the current consultant.

Mike Barrett, PLM representative, said PLM did not review the application because Benesh told them everything was in order.

Benesh, who retired as commission director last year, did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Barrett told residents the noise of 60 decibels will not disturb the area, and the structure’s “shininess” would dull over time. And because of new technology, centering the utility’s electricity transmissions in one area is not dangerous, Barrett said.

-Barrett also told residents locating substations in residential areas is very common, and said property values will rebound “sooner than you think.”

The Village Board seemed sympathetic but said a centralized substation will benefit the community as a whole.

“We really feel for your situation,” Mayor Donna Simonson told the Fairview residents.

Simonson said the village will plant trees or shrubs to beautify the area, and recommended property owners have their assessments reviewed at the next village grievance day.