By KAYLA J. MARSH
MIDDLETOWN — Residents and community members are united in their support that the township opposes Jersey Central Power & Light’s Monmouth County Reliability Project.
That was evident during a recent Township Committee meeting when a packed crowd of residents and community members showed their support as the governing body unanimously passed a resolution “expressing significant concern regarding the need for and impact” of JCP&L’s proposed project.
The project calls for a new 10-mile, 230-kV transmission line along New Jersey Transit’s North Jersey Coast rail line.
The transmission line would begin at a substation in Aberdeen and would follow the New Jersey Transit corridor right-of-way through Hazlet, Holmdel and Middletown before ending at the substation in Red Bank.
“Thank you for signing the unanimous resolution,” said resident Bernice Curto at the July 18 meeting. “Please [continue to] listen to the residents and families who need to be heard and comfort their fears.
“Please [continue to] be leaders in this fight and support us by walking the walk and fighting the fight both for us and with us [and] please do whatever it takes to defeat this.”
Before the meeting, members of Residents Against Giant Electric (RAGE), a group aimed at educating residents about the impacts the project could bring and garnering support to help prevent the project from occurring, gathered outside Town Hall on Kings Highway, to host a peaceful demonstration.
“The rally was a great success,” said Andrew Clark of RAGE. “There was lots of energy and I think we definitely achieved our two goals, which were to thank the township for passing the resolution and spreading awareness to community members driving by.
“ … We need to continue to spread our message and we also need to acquire more support.”
Following the unanimous decision to approve the resolution, members of the governing body took a moment to share some thoughts.
“I think this resolution crystallizes what the Township Committee’s feelings are on the matter,” said Committeewoman Stephanie C. Murray. “I commend the mayor and deputy mayor for being great representatives of the Township Committee and taking the lead on this and really being trailblazers on this.”
Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger commended those individuals speaking out about the project and investing the time to truly understand what is going on in their community.
“It is a testament to what makes this town so great,” he said. “There’s an old saying ‘people get the government they deserve,’ [and] we hope that we represent the government you deserve, because you deserve fighters and you deserve listeners and you deserve advocates for what your feelings are.”
According to the passed resolution, the governing body believes that “based on the information presented to date, the need for this project is questionable, particularly when weighed against the significant and disproportionate negative impact it will have on Middletown and its residents” such as on real estate values, which they said would “decrease the tax base of the township” and on the Middletown Village Historic District.
“We realize this is a fluid situation, we realize this is a complicated and complex situation for the municipality, for our residents … and we thoroughly realize that there is a lot we need to learn and we are steadfast in our commitment to meet with all the professionals we possibly can … [and see] what we can do from our perspective,” said Deputy Mayor Anthony Fiore.
“You can rest assured that Middletown greatly understands the impacts to our community, we greatly understand that we are a very large community … but we also will do whatever we need to protect Middletown’s interests … in the best way we possibly can.”
The resolution also states the governing body believes “less intrusive alternatives have not been given sufficient consideration prior to dusting off failed 30-year-old plans for this project” and “encourages JCP&L to more fully consider less detrimental means to increase the reliability of its transmission services.”
According to the resolution, a substantially similar project was proposed by JCP&L in 1989, but was withdrawn following overwhelming opposition.
“If anyone has read it or not it is a two-page resolution … it pretty much says the governing body of the township of Middletown doesn’t like the way the proposal has been made and its effect on the residents,” Committeeman Kevin Settembrino said. “This governing body will do everything in its power to protect the residents of Middletown as a whole.”
Committeeman Stephen Massell agreed and said it is about protecting the quality of life community members have come to expect in the township.
“We have a special quality of life here in Middletown, and I think … fighting this is what will keep the quality of life that we appreciate,” he said.
Resident Rachael Kanapka took a moment towards the end of the meeting to thank the governing body.
“If this project were to go through as proposed, the negative impact to Middletown and its residents would be tremendous, [and] I applaud the Township Committee’s willingness to get involved,” she said.
“I am proud to live in Middletown. I want Middletown to stay safe and beautiful and to continue to be a place that I am proud to live in, [and] I thank you mayor and Township Committee for standing up tonight to keep it that way.”