By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO January 15, 2002 - Ben Campanaro isnt ready to move from the county hes called home for the past 25 years.
But Campanaro, a lineman for the New York Power Authority (NYPA) service station in Monticello, isnt looking at many options.
As of July 1, the service station which was built in the 1980s to maintain the high voltage Marcy South Power lines running through the county will be shut down by the NYPA, and the seven employees at the building will have the option of moving to Marcy or Grand Gorge to take a new job, or looking for a new job entirely.
But for Campanaro, the closing isnt just a matter of lost jobs.
The station houses seven people who are charged with maintaining 95 miles of the high voltage Marcy South power lines from Downsville to East Fishkill.
We can be at anything within an hour to an hour and a half, he explained.
But when the Monticello station is closed, along with a NYPA maintenance station in Baldwinsville, workers will have to travel much longer distances to reach problems.
To serve Sullivan County, Campanaro said, the workmen will be driving from Grand Gorge which could be a six to eight hour response time on a weekend.
There have been problems in the past that required immediate attention, he noted, but disaster has always been averted with the work of the local NYPA workers.
But theyve never had lines so far away from their employees, Campanaro noted.
A member of the Liberty Fire Department, Campanaro is looking at the situation from the rescue personnel side of the issue.
My feeling, and I think the fire service agrees, is there should be trained personnel in the area, he said.
Beyond the unexpected, there are numerous hazards existing in Sullivan County. The Marcy South lines run near the Monticello and Sullivan County International airports, and planes have been known to hit the lines further upstate, Campanaro explained.
Were not like General Motors, he added. If a company wants to centralize their production, it doesnt matter because they can make a car wherever.
But were selling a product thats necessary and safe, but in certain events it can be dangerous, Campanaro explained. Any company that deals with this should have trained personnel on hand to keep the product safe and protect the public.
The men currently employed at the station are almost all Sullivan County residents, he added. All have been working for NYPA for at least 10 years, becoming familiar with the area but also with the residents.
We handle a lot of customer complaints, Campanaro explained. People are going to lose that we know the area and we know the people.
To combat the problem, Campanaro has spent the last several months in a campaign to keep the service station open.
He approached Dick Martinkovic, supervisor of the Town of Liberty who was involved with the town in the 1980s when NYPA first came into the county.
NYPA approached the towns which it hoped to run lines through, including Liberty, announcing they were taking land by means of eminent domain, Martinkovic explained, but giving each town money in exchange.
At the time, they said they were going to build a maintenance facility, which they did, so they would have linemen here, and in the event of an emergency, they would respond, he recalled.
The idea was supported at the time because it brought jobs to the Sullivan County and NYPA was assuring the safety of area residents.
But now, some 15 years later, suddenly management has reevaluated things and because of costs and business needs, theyre going to shut the facility down, Martinkovic added. We arent in a position to criticize, but in this county 15 years ago, we were promised they would have a facility.
Along with Campanaro, Martinkovic has been helping to write letters to state senators, congressman and even the governors office for support.
The County Legislature passed a resolution supporting their cause, Campanaro said, and Assemblyman Jake Gunther and State Sen. John Bonacic have both written letters.
I dont know anyone Ben doesnt have the support of, Martinkovic noted.
But so far there has been no response.
According to Jack Murphy of NYPAs public relations department, the Power Authority plans to shut the station down in July.
Were always looking for ways to increase efficiency and keep costs as low as possible so we can keep the cost low to the customer, Murphy explained.
One of the men currently working in the Monticello station has chosen to retire, and the others have been offered transfers to other stations upstate, Murphy added.
As for the safety issue, Murphy said, We do not see any lessening of safety.