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Official: Fredon school board, utility don't reach agreement
 

By BRUCE A. SCRUTON

bscruton@njherald.com

FREDON -- The Fredon school board met behind closed doors for nearly two hours with officials from Public Service Electric & Gas, the company that wants to build a half-million volt power line near the school.

"We had a long discussion as it relates to the project," said district Superintendent Sal Constantino as the session broke up just after 9:30 p.m.

Officials from the utility said they had no comment as they walked out of the meeting.

The company already has a 230,000-volt transmission line on a right-of-way adjacent to the school's playground.

Board members have expressed concern about the addition of 500,000 volts to run on wires that will be strung on new power poles, which will carry both sets of lines.

Current passing through the lines creates electromagnetic fields, known as EMF.

Some studies have suggested a link between high EMF exposure and childhood diseases, while other studies have claimed no link.

As citizens showed up for the meeting, they were told the board would probably be going into executive session and when the meeting opened, about a half-dozen people remained, including representatives from Stop The Lines, a citizens advocacy group formed to fight the power lines, and a nearby property owner.

When asked if the meeting could legally be closed to the public, Constantino said he had obtained an affirmative opinion from an attorney from the New Jersey School Boards Association.

Last week, the Fredon board hired attorney William Harla, as special counsel on the power line issue. Harla is a partner in the firm, DeCotis, FitzPatrick, Cole and Wisler, and has experience in government and regulatory affairs.

While Harla was not present at the meeting, Constantino said the board and utility officials would be discussing possible litigation, although no lawsuit has been filed or voted upon by the board against the utility.

The wording in the open public meetings statute says one reason a board may go into executive session is "any pending or anticipated litigation or contract negotiation where the public body is a party or may become a party."

That wording most often is taken to mean a meeting between a board and its attorney, not between the two parties.

While not disclosing the substance of the meeting, Constantino said, "PSE&G made their position very clear," and later added the two sides "reached no agreement. We agreed the discussions will continue."

He later said the board's position of retaining counsel and becoming a party to further proceedings "is unchanged."

Created: 11/24/2008 | Updated: 11/24/2008

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