NJNG TO REPLACE ALL SIDEWALK VALVES

The disputed gas pressure regulators are beneath steel covers like this one outside 12 Broad Street. The utility contends they should be above ground for safety, like the one outside Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, below. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

New Jersey Natural Gas, locked in a lawsuit with Red Bank over unsightly gas valves, plans to replace 88 such devices in their existing sidewalk pits downtown beginning Monday, the company announced Friday afternoon.

Citing the “potential threat of harm” posed by corroded and leaking gas pressure regulators, the company said it would take unilateral action to temporarily replace the equipment in a way that does not require borough permits – the sticking point in the pending litigation.

Mayor Pasquale Menna called the action a publicity stunt.

The move comes a week after Superior Court Judge Lawrence Lawson, in Freehold, rejected NJNG’s request for an order directing Red Bank to issue building permits it has withheld from the utility.

“To install eighty-eight new regulators that we fully intend to replace with above ground regulators when the case is concluded is an extraordinary undertaking and considerably more than the court directed us to do,” the company said in a prepared statement, “but is the safest option short of relocating the regulators above ground.”

Company spokesman Mike Kinney told redbankgreen the replacement work will begin Monday and is expected to take about three weeks to complete.

Menna, who has been an outspoken critic of NJNG’s plan to move the regulators above-ground, saw the move as a cynical ploy.

“As I understand it in layman’s terms. they are allegedly replacing old, defective regulators with brand new, spic-and-span ones that are just as dangerous,” going by the company’s earlier claims, he said. “That is a mass tort lawyer’s wonderful dream,” said Menna, an attorney.

“It seems to me this is a PR effort to get property owners upset at the municipality,” he added.