RUMSON: UTILITIES TO GO BELOW RIVER

Natural gas and water supply lines are to be tunneled beneath the Shrewsbury River between Rumson Road in Rumson, above, and Sea Bright. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Residents of Rumson and Sea Bright may see an unusual construction project as early as next month, when two utility companies run new service lines connecting the towns 25 feet below the floor of the Shrewsbury River.

Municipal and utility officials said they expect minimal disruption to traffic during the monthlong project, when New Jersey Natural Gas and New Jersey-American Water plan to drill beneath the river from Sea Bright to Rumson and then pull about a quarter-mile of piping across the span.

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RED BANK SCORES IN GAS VALVE BATTLE

An NJNG crew packs it in after being ordered by police to stop work on a nearly completed gas regulator valve replacement on Monmouth Street in October, 2012. Below, a Monmouth Street valve that was struck by a falling tree during Hurricane Sandy. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rb gas valve 103112Remember the flap over the regulator valves that New Jersey Natural Gas Company moved above-ground along storefronts over the objections of Red Bank officials and merchants two years ago?

They’re unsafe, borough officials said. They’re ugly, too, said business owners and officials at RiverCenter, the downtown promotion agency. Mayor Pasquale Menna called them “monstrous carbuncles” forced upon the town by an “arrogant” utility company.

They’re also illegal, according to a state appellate panel ruing issued Tuesday.

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RED BANK COPS HALT GAS VALVE WORK

An NJNG crew packs it in after being ordered by police to stop work on a nearly completed gas regulator valve replacement on Monmouth Street Friday morning. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

The dispute over natural gas valves in downtown Red Bank grew more heated Friday morning, as Mayor Pasquale Menna directed the police chief to pull cops off traffic duty at New Jersey Natural Gas worksites and to order the construction halted.

Menna and downtown business interests, already blowing a gasket over what they have termed the company’s “medieval,” “spiteful” and “arrogant” displays of power, said NJNG has visibly ramped up its efforts to move gas valves from sub-sidewalk pits to above-ground spots adjacent to storefronts. And it is doing so without obtaining necessary construction permits, they said.

Based on that failure, Menna said he consulted with borough Attorney Dan O’Hern before asking police Chief Steve McCarthy to yank officers from site work and to have cops order the workers to pack it in.

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RED BANK: GAS VALVE BATTLE EXPANDS

A gas regulator valve outside the Ebner’s rug store on East Front Street that borough officials said was the subject of a summons. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

A legal and PR battle pitting Red Bank government and business interests against the region’s dominant natural gas distributor is about to move into a new arena.

Borough officials, having lost round one in court, voted Monday night to file an appeal that they hope will stop New Jersey Natural Gas from relocating gas regulator valves from sub-sidewalk boxes to storefronts downtown.

Meantime, the town has begun issuing summonses charging the utility with doing construction work without obtaining necessary permits.

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TOWN FIRES BACK IN GAS EQUIPMENT SPAT

Gas utility crews have been working downtown this week to replace gas regulators in pits beneath sidewalks without moving them. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Escalating a dispute over who gets to determine where utility equipment can be installed, Red Bank officials threw another obstacle in the way of a New Jersey Natural Gas plan to relocate unsightly gas regulators from beneath downtown sidewalks to above-ground sites.

A pair of ordinance amendments adopted by the borough council Wednesday night would require the utility, and any other developer, to obtain planning or zoning board approval for any installation that “may impact” a sidewalk.

The changes, officials insisted, were aimed at squaring the language of existing ordinances, and do not create any new hurdles. But the move comes amid a pending lawsuit and other actions in a back-and-forth that pits the borough government and business interests against the gas company.

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RED BANK SCORES FIRST IN GAS METER SUIT

New Jersey Natural Gas says it needs to install 88 pressure-relief regulators above ground, and has filed suit to force the borough to issue permits. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank won the first round in a legal battle with a natural gas provider over unsightly valves the utility insists must be installed along storefronts downtown for safety reasons.

In a decision issued in Freehold Monday, state Superior Court Judge Lawrence Lawson rejected New Jersey Natural Gas Company’s request for an order requiring the borough to immediately issue permits for the replacement work.

The ruling comes despite written testimony by NJNG employees that two underground regulators were found to have been leaking beneath sidewalks on Broad Street just last week.

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RED BANK GAS SPAT MOVES TO STATEHOUSE

Red Bank wants the regulators, below, enclosed beneath sidewalks, like one outside 26 Monmouth Street, above.  (Click to enlarge)

Three months after Red Bank borough and New Jersey Natural Gas publicly clashed over the gas company’s plan to install pressure-regulating valves in front of more than 80 borough businesses, the fight has moved to Trenton.

After a hearing over proposed legislation that would limit the utility’s ability to unilaterally locate emergency venting equipment was postponed Monday, representatives of the two sides aired their cases on the Statehouse steps, the Asbury Park Press reports.

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OFFICIALS BLAST NJNG OVER GAS VALVES

State Senator Jennifer Beck with the offending gas pressure valve on Broad Street Wednesday. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

[SEE UPDATE TO THIS STORY AT THE BOTTOM]

Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna and 11th-District state Senator Jennifer Beck teed up New Jersey Natural Gas Wednesday for a plan to install emergency venting devices in front of downtown storefronts.

Labeling them “Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Vandals,” the historically inclined mayor blasted unnamed NJNG officials for a “tyrannical decision to put in these horse hitches,” he said at a midday press conference outside Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash on Broad Street, where one of the offending valves was installed a year ago.

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