By KATHY CHANG
MILLTOWN — As the New Year rolls around, the anticipated completion of the new electric substation is nearing.
“Final preparations are being made to start the commissioning,” Mayor Eric Steeber said Jan. 1 after being sworn in to his second term leading the borough.
The new facility includes a 4,500-square-foot switchgear building, three utility transformers and a 26-kV yard for dual utility power fees from PSE&G.
In 2013, the borough purchased the Schwendeman log cabin property adjacent to Albert Avenue and Mill Pond Park for the purpose of a land swap with Middlesex County for property adjacent to Borough Hall on Washington Avenue. The next year, the borough acquired the 1.3 acres from the county for the new substation.
The use of the property on Washington Avenue allowed for the new substation to be built on higher ground, outside of the flood plain, according to the New Jersey State House Commission, which had jurisdiction over the land swap.
In exchange, Milltown will convey the former Schwendeman property — 2.6 acres on Kuhlthau Avenue — to the county.
The aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 led borough officials on a journey to move the electrical substation to higher ground.
Irene brought torrential rains in August 2011 that overflowed area waterways, flooding nearby streets as well as the borough’s electric substation, resulting in a nearly weeklong power outage. Borough officials shut down the substation in preparation for the floodwaters, which reportedly rose halfway up the transformers.
Officials and contracted electricians then spent five days drying and repairing the substation before restoring power.
Milltown is one of eight municipalities in the state that operates an electric utility for the benefit of its residents and businesses.
In September 2014, borough officials awarded a contract for the construction of a new electric substation.
Borough officials entered an agreement with Welsbach Electric Corp. for the Borough Electric Utility Flood Mitigation project, which includes the construction of a new electric substation for a sum not to exceed $12,368,122.
The status of the electric substation was one of many projects Steeber spoke about in his address to the public during the reorganization meeting.
Steeber, a Democrat, defeated Republican candidate Ronald Dixon in the November election.
The construction of the 2015 Capital Improvements Project is anticipated to begin early this year.
Steeber said the project includes improvements to the existing municipal parking lot adjacent to the library; the construction of a retaining wall at the intersection of School Street and Elm Place to stabilize the existing steep slopes at that location; and improvements to Lafayette Avenue in the vicinity of Michelin Field. The Lafayette Avenue improvements are funded in part by a $360,000 New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) Municipal Aid grant that was obtained by the borough.
The borough was also successful in obtaining a DOT Municipal Aid grant in the amount of $300,000 for the initial phase of the improvements to Wilson Avenue and Howard Street. Construction on the project is anticipated this summer.
“The improvements consist of roadway and drainage improvements on Howard Street and on Wilson Avenue from Washington Avenue to Howard Street,” Steeber said.
The mayor said water distribution system improvements are currently in progress, and he added the water tower at the Ryders Crossing Shopping Center is in desperate need of repainting.
“Efforts to secure financing, grants or financial sponsorship for this project should be researched and finalized in 2016,” he said.
Steebr said he implores the council, as he did since he came into office, to update the borough’s tax maps.
“These maps, if correctly drawn in an electronic format, will serve as a base for the future management of most municipal assets and infrastructure covering many departments and is a most worthy investment,” he said.
Also on Jan. 1, former Councilman Randy Farkas and newcomer Nick Ligotti took the oath of office for a pair of three-year terms. Farkas and Ligotti defeated the Republican ticket of Councilman Neil Raciti and Richard Revolinsky.