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Feb 20, 2018 11:28 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Eastport Group Seeks More Information About Utility Poles

Poles lining County Road 51 in Eastport. KATE RIGA
Feb 21, 2018 12:51 PM

The trio of agencies at the center of the maelstrom over the installation of tall steel utility poles stretching from Riverhead to Eastport—the Department of Public Service, the Long Island Power Authority and PSEG-Long Island—has been reluctant to reveal any information about both the origins of the poles and their future.

Jim Gleason, vice president and director of the East Moriches Property Owners Association, has been embroiled in back-and-forths with officials of the DPS, seeking information about the department’s review of PSEG’s plans before the poles were installed. The DPS is LIPA’s regulatory agency, and PSEG is contracted by LIPA.

Mr. Gleason is trying to determine if PSEG took the required steps before it took action—including a thorough environmental review, and informing the proper officials and residents of its plans—and if DPS was thorough in ensuring that it had.

He submitted a request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law and received heavily redacted documents from DPS, while other documents were not provided. DPS justified withholding the information by saying the department does not release information pertaining to critical infrastructure or inter- and intra-agency records.

Mr. Gleason appealed this decision, arguing that the exceptions allowing agencies to withhold information under FOIL were being abused in this case. For example, he said that if DPS wanted to redact the specific amount of voltage in a transmission line, department officials could have blacked out a few words or phrases instead of entire chunks of text.

“Is there information indicating mistakes made or a lack of review?” Mr. Gleason asked hypothetically on Friday. “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire—why expend so much energy covering things up if there’s nothing to cover?”

On appeal, Kathleen Burgess, secretary of the Public Service Commission, upheld the DPS’s earlier decision to redact the information under FOIL exceptions.

Now, Mr. Gleason and his organization must decide whether or not to take the matter to the next level: State Supreme Court.

“We have four months to make the decision,” he said, adding that if the group gets a favorable decision in court, DPS could still appeal the decision to an appellate court. “They seem to want to stonewall more than anything else,” said Mr. Gleason.

PSEG has been equally reticent as their overseer about one pole in particular: a now-dented one at an intersection on County Road 51, the site of a deadly car crash in December. Matthew Hillebrand, 47, of Babylon veered into the pole and died later in the day at Stony Brook University Hospital of injuries he suffered in the crash.

Spokespeople from PSEG have opted not to answer any questions concerning the pole’s possible removal, replacement or movement after the crash, citing the “ongoing litigation” between PSEG and Brookhaven Town. Brookhaven sued PSEG and LIPA in July over the installation of the poles.

One spokeswoman, Brooke Houston, said that PSEG workers were still examining the damage to the pole. She would not give any further information on when that examination will be completed.

“It really seems like they are just dragging this out as long as they can,” said Mr. Gleason.

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Someone had to be on the "take" in order to get those poles up. Brookhaven and Southampton spend so much effort to insure neighborhood preservation that in no way could those eyesores be approved. Heading East on Sunrise looks like you are headed into a futuristic jail. Horrible.Not to mention, you hit one and you are a goner. My guess nothing can be done.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Feb 20, 18 1:33 PM