Tag Archive | "LIPA"

LIPA: Power Outages Could Last Weeks

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By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Michael Heller

The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) warned East End residents on Wednesday that while it predicted power would be fully restored to nearly a million customers left in the dark after Hurricane Sandy pummeled the New York metropolitan area on Monday, it could, in fact, be weeks before power is fully restored to the island.

As of Wednesday morning, Main Street, Sag Harbor remained dark, the Municipal Building alone lit with the power of a generator.

Large swaths of Southampton and East Hampton towns were also left without power.

“To put this in perspective, once the storm left, it left us with almost a million LIPA customers without power,” said LIPA spokesman Mark Gross. “Last year, with Hurricane Irene, we had about 500,000 customers without power and unlike Irene, Sandy impacted us for two-and-a-half days and really pounded our system.”

Gross said right now LIPA was in the assessment phase, locating damaged transmission lines, substations and neighborhoods. Restoration of transmission lines, the “backbone” of the energy grid, said Gross, is the first step LIPA takes in a massive outage of this nature, and after that crews get to work restoring substations before going into neighborhoods.

Emergency care and service facilities, like hospitals and firehouses are prioritized, said Gross, and as crews are out in the field any restoration that can occur is completed. Priorities are given to the largest areas affected, added Gross.

“We did say seven to 10 days originally, but this storm was worse than anyone could have predicted,” said Gross. “Customers should be prepared to wait a little longer than that.”

LIPA is bringing in crews from across the country, said Gross, and already has crews from Michigan, Iowa and even as far as California.

As of Wednesday morning at 10:15 a.m., a total of 866,070 LIPA customers remained without power. In Suffolk County, 406,141 were without power.

In Southampton Town, 34,368 residents were without electricity and in East Hampton 18,160 remained in the dark. Those numbers included, 1,611 Sag Harbor LIPA customers without power, 3,582 in Bridgehampton, 431 in North Haven, 1,130 in North Sea, 512 in Noyac and 1,183 on Shelter Island.

“A workforce of more than 5,000 strong is working around the clock and will continue to do so until everybody has power,” said LIPA in a statement issued Wednesday morning.

“Safety should still be your highest priority,” continued the statement. “Assume any downed wire is a live electric wire. Stay away from it and report it to LIPA immediately, anytime at 1-800-490-0075.”

 

As August Approaches, Towns Host Hurricane Preparedness Seminar

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By Amanda Wyatt

As hurricane season nears, elected officials on the East End are joining forces with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) to better prepare residents for whatever wicked weather may come our way.

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Shelter Island Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty are all slated to join LIPA’s Chief Operating Officer, Michael Hervey, at the upcoming East End Hurricane Preparedness Seminar.

The event, which is scheduled for Thursday, July 26 at 6 p.m., will take place at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton.

“I think based on last year’s experience with Tropical Storm Irene, there’s room for improvement in our response to hurricanes and tropical storms,” Thiele said in an interview. “And that’s why I’ve joined together with the East End towns and LIPA to present this seminar.”

“One of the purposes of this meeting, from my perspective, is to hear what LIPA has done to upgrade and improve their storm response plan,” admitted Thiele. “I thought last year that their communication with the public was somewhat lacking.”

Thiele went on to say it would help “demonstrate, particularly in LIPA’s case, what lessons were learned through the failures that occurred last year.”

Last August, the East End was battered by the outer bands of Tropical Storm Irene, which was downgraded from hurricane strength just prior to coming ashore. Long Island dodged a bullet in the form of the flooding which destroyed whole communities in upstate New York. However, in the aftermath of Irene, many residents across Suffolk County were left without power, some for well over a week.

“It was very difficult even for elected officials to get information about what LIPA was doing during the response to the storm,” said Thiele. “I think the linemen and the personnel who were on the ground fixing the power lines did a good job.”

In an interview, Supervisor Wilkinson said LIPA has been working to correct past communication issues.

“Mike Hervey had several meetings and briefings both up the island and locally to ensure that the troops on the ground are getting the appropriate direction from the command structure,” said Wilkinson.

“LIPA continues to identify and implement new measures to improve our storm communications and restoration procedures — such as our mobile web site and texting service to report and receive outage information from handheld devices — as well as enhanced coordination with municipalities on tree and debris removal,” said Hervey in a press release issued last week.

“In addition, I encourage residents to start preparing now to reduce the effects of any natural disaster and plan for a multi-day outage,” added Hervey. “This includes planning a hurricane route, preparing an emergency kit, and making sure you are able to stay connected to the latest weather reports and emergency broadcast.”

While LIPA has worked on its own preparedness initiatives, so have local governments. According to Supervisor Wilkinson, East Hampton has “gone through rather extensive incident command training in the past year.”

He said East Hampton works essentially “as one unit under the Emergency Operations Center.” The police department, parks and highway division, human service department, marine patrol, and even volunteer ocean rescue are all involved in hurricane preparedness.

Wilkinson mentioned the town had purchased new generators for backup power, just in case there are any issues with existing generators.

“As we get closer and closer to August with the water being as warm as it is, we have to be especially diligent this year,” he said.

“Preparation is essential to our ability to manage the impacts of major storm events,” added Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst in the press release issued announcing the event.  “As we were reminded by Tropical Storm Irene last fall, our area is prone to power outages during high wind events.”

According to Thiele, representatives at the seminar will discuss how the towns work with their fire departments, ambulance services and police departments in preparing for emergencies.

“It will be an opportunity for the towns to get out the information early, before a storm, about how they would address some of these emergencies,” he explained.

Thiele added the seminar would help people create an information package in preparation for tropical storms or hurricanes.

“I think it’s important that one way or another people get information and have their own individual plans, depending on where you live,” said Thiele. “It’s important each individual household know what they’re going to do in case of a storm, if the power goes out.”

“We’re working together on an intergovernmental basis to get people as much information as they can,” added Thiele. “There will certainly be a lot of useful information for people to incorporate in their own plans.”

Wilkinson agreed, saying it was important “continue to prepare and continue to share information, and to keep it fresh, keep it topical, and keep it in front of the public’s eyes.”

“I don’t think there’s a time, especially when you deal with hurricanes, that you can be over-prepared and you can over-communicate,” said Wilkinson.

Hurricane Preparedness Seminar Announced for July

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East Hampton, Shelter Island and Southampton towns have joined New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and the Long Island Power Authority in hosting an East End Hurricane Preparedness seminar on Thursday, July 26 at 6 p.m. at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton.

“Preparation is essential to our ability to manage the impacts of storm events,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. “As we were reminded by  Tropical Storm Irene last fall, our area is prone to power outages during high wind events. LIPA has worked hard to improve its ability to respond to outages and to better communicate with residents and municipal emergency managers during these stressful times. We are pleased to offer this forum as an opportunity to keep residents informed about the progress LIPA has made, the communication tools that will be available to them and to review how best to prepare for the possibility of future outages.”

LIPA Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey added that anyone dependent on electricity for emergency medical and life-support equipment should register with LIPA’s Critical Care Program, so they can receive regular updates on scheduled outages or severe weather allowing them to make advanced preparations. To enroll or obtain more information on Critical Care call 1-800-490-0025 or visit

http://www.lipower.org/residential/custserv/services-care.html.

For more information or to register for the July 26th Hurricane Preparedness Seminar, please contact Assemblyman Fred Thiele’s District Office at 537-2583.


Bridgehampton Company Eyes Monopole

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web Bridgehampton Monopole

By Claire Walla


Amongst the usual array of residential subdivisions and commercial change-of-use applications, last week the Southampton Town planning board saw this word: monopole.

At its regular meeting last Thursday, January 12, the planning board agenda included a site plan application submitted by a company called Elite Towers, LLC, in conjunction with cellular provider AT&T. The plan proposes putting a 120-foot high cell tower (known as a monopole because all antennae are contained inside the structure) on a piece of property near Foster Avenue in Bridgehampton.

The area in question encompasses 16,213 square feet close to the railroad tracks, just off Butter Lane. It also sits in a commercial district that’s currently home to an auto service and repair facility, an interior design studio, and a steel and welding company.

According to town documents, the land is owned by a company called Hampton Terminal, LLC, based in Patchogue. The property already has an 874-square foot building, which, according to the site plan, would be used to house equipment associated with the cell tower. Both Elite Towers and New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC (otherwise known as AT&T) did not return calls for comment.

According to Southampton Town Planner Claire Vail, any proposed monopole would have to be governed by certain setbacks. In a residential zone, a tower must not exceed any height equal to or greater than 100 percent of the distance between it and the closest residential building. (In other words, if a pole happens to be 100 feet away from the closest house, it may not exceed 100 feet.) For commercial districts, Vail added, that threshold is 300 percent.

The applicants for this particular application, she said, “don’t even seem to meet this setback.” While the closest residence is technically 551 feet away from the location of the proposed pole, there are commercial buildings well within 120 feet.

Currently, the site location is considered by the town to be an Aquifer Protection Overlay District. Vail explained that this is means it is recognized by the town of Southampton as being an area of recharge for groundwater. Basically, Vail continued, “it’s an area of avoidance.”

However, Vail continued to say that the border for the “Aquifer Protection Overlay District” is not so clearly defined. And there’s also the fact that this land has already seen some construction.

“It’s a site that’s already been disturbed,” she clarified.

Vail said the last monopole application pertaining to a site in Bridgehampton was approved back in 2002. The 120-foot pole, owned by LIPA, that now sits just off Montauk Highway would have had to abide by similar commercial and residential zone setbacks, however this piece of property already contained three poles.

“We have a provision in our code that allows you to replace a pole in kind and in place if it’s within 10 feet [of its original size],” Vail explained. Even though the proposed tower ended up being 20 feet higher than the original, Vail said the planning board gave LIPA a waiver for the project, compromising on the height in exchange for LIPA agreeing to move the tower further away from Montauk Highway.

“It was a very long process… and neighbors complained,” Vail recollected. But, she said the town was satisfied with the compromise. “It’s always a give and take with these things.”

At this point Vail said the site plan for Foster Avenue has not yet been fully vetted. Last week, the board passed a resolution to hold a pre-submission conference on the application, which is currently slated for its next meeting on Thursday, February 9.

Shinning A Night On LIPA

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By Carl Grossman

Finally, a bill to provide more light on the Long Island Power Authority has been passed—and unanimously—by the Suffolk County Legislature. LIPA had lobbied lawmakers not to support the effort by Legislator Edward Romaine to form a Long Island Power Oversight Committee. But, in the end, with the exception of one legislator who is with a law firm that represents LIPA, the other 17 members of the legislature stood up to LIPA.

The measure is now before County Executive Steve Levy who says he will “not oppose LIPA, meanwhile, is complaining about passage of the legislation saying it would create “another level of government.”

Meanwhile, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. Sag Harbor, who has long fought for election of members of LIPA’s board of trustees, said last week that “the common theme here is the need for increased oversight and transparency regarding LIPA. Ed Romaine’s bill does the best that can be accomplished on the county level.”

But, said Mr. Thiele, “we will not have full accountability of LIPA until the trustees are elected by the people they are supposed to serve.” Now, “I would describe it as Long Island’s public electric company being operated by political insiders responsible to Albany politicians.” Mr. Thiele said he will be re-introducing his bill next year to end having LIPA board members appointed by the governor and the two leaders of the State Legislature, and instead having them selected through election by Long Islanders.

The 17-0 vote on the Romaine bill at a legislative session December 7 came after a discussion in which Mr. Romaine stated: “LIPA lacks any oversight by anyone.” Moreover, it was supposed to have an elected board. “That promise was not fulfilled.”

“We need some independent body to start examining what LIPA is doing,” said Mr. Romaine of Center Moriches. “They don’t have [state] Public Service Commission oversight…
There is no one they report to. There is no one that checks into any of its activities.”
As an example of why this is needed, he noted how LIPA “pushed several years ago” for a “Green Choice Program…For a little extra in your rate structure they would buy green power….Many of the East End towns decided to buy into that program. And then one day I got a call from the supervisor of Shelter Island, at that time Mr. [Al] Kilb, and he said, ‘Ed, we buy 100% green power, Green Choice power. I have a contract for windmills…Can you tell me why I’m paying a fuel adjustment charge if I’m buying 100% green power?’ Declared Mr. Romaine:

“That’s because LIPA didn’t buy green power; they just charged a higher rate and said they did.”

“There’s a lot of good LIPA does and I don’t deny that,” said Mr. Romaine, “but I believe that a public authority requires some oversight. This is a vote for us to begin even the most minimal oversight. And those who would deny even the most minimal oversight are not benefitting the ratepayers of LIPA.”

Legislator Lou D’Amaro of Huntington Station said “I appreciate the goal here…Oversight is probably a good thing when it comes to the high energy rates that we’re paying here in Suffolk County and on Long Island. But I also am just wondering whether or not we have…the expertise and the financial wherewithal to conduct effective oversight.”

Mr. Romaine responded to Mr. D’Amaro: “I believe it’s a step one in a multi-step process. And I also believe, as I’m sure you understand as an attorney, that the powers of this legislature are considerable, and I’m sure cooperation will be assured one way or the other.”
When the vote came, Mr. D’Amaro recused himself noting he is with Rivkin Radler, a Uniondale law firm that represents LIPA.

The panel to be established would have six unpaid members chosen by the legislature: two experts in energy matters and two in utility operations; one specifically familiar with LIPA; and one representing a civic group. It would hold four public hearings in 2011 and issue a report.

“We’re sending a signal that we’re going to be far more deeply involved in the operations of LIPA,” said Mr. Romaine. That needs to happen, along with, indeed, a “multi-step” program of oversight of the utility—and the election of those who run it.

LIPA Needs Original Vision

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 By Karl Grossman

            It’s been a couple of weeks of mixed moves at the Long Island Power Authority—mirroring the mixed record of Kevin Law over his three years at LIPA’s helm. Mr. Law this week left his positions as president and chief executive officer of LIPA to become president of the Long Island Association, an islandwide chamber of commerce.

Under Mr. Law there’s been inconsistency at LIPA. For example, a first act upon replacing long-time consumer activist Richard Kessel as LIPA head was to scuttle a plan Mr. Kessel championed for wind turbines off the south shore. Long Island would have been replicating the success of Europe with wind turbines. Mr. Law, a lawyer, cited financial reasons for the cancellation. Yet last month, as he prepared to leave LIPA, he called for wind turbines off the south shore in a project five times as large as the one cancelled.

Similarly, last week, with PR pomp, Mr. Law and LIPA celebrated the completion of a 180-panel photovoltaic system at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue. It was described in a press release as the “largest LIPA-rebated ground mounted solar system on Long Island.” Other bigger photovoltaic systems that have received LIPA support are on rooftops.

Mr. Law declared: “The use of solar and wind on the East End continues to thrive under LIPA’s renewable energy rebate program helping us to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, assisting customers in lowering their energy bills, and creating high energy jobs right here on Long Island.”

Nice words. But the week before LIPA announced the fifth reduction this year in the rebate it has been providing for solar photovoltaic systems—down to $1.75 per watt. It had been $3.50 on December 31st.  LIPA gave reasons including “continued federal, state and local tax incentives” and the “declining cost of installation”— the cost of solar panels has been dropping because of manufacturing and technological improvements and economy of scale as more panels are installed.

Still, the spread of solar photovoltaic energy is key to Long Island having an independent and non-polluting energy supply. A full commitment to clean, safe, sustainable energy must be a top priority for LIPA—indeed, this was integral to LIPA’s mission in the law creating it in 1985.

Also integral was LIPA having an elected board of trustees. That way, believed those who fought for LIPA’s founding, Long Islanders would be able to chart their own energy future. After the push by the Long Island Lighting Company to build seven to 11 nuclear power plants  (the now gutted Shoreham plant to be the first), this was deemed highly important. LIPA was established mainly as a way to stop LILCO’s nuclear scheme. This it did.

Mr. Law has been steadfast in his opposition to an elected LIPA board, backing a board appointed by the governor, State Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader (Albany’s “three-men-in-a room”).

“We were always in favor of an elected board,” commented Maurice Barbash last week. ‘

Mr. Barbash was chairman of Citizens to Replace LILCO, the organization that led the effort to form LIPA. He blames ex-Governor Mario Cuomo for “screwing up” both how LIPA would take over LILCO and then postponing elections to the LIPA board. Mr. Cuomo’s successor, Governor George Pataki, then eliminated having an elected LIPA board.

What’s next for LIPA?  LIPA Chairman Howard Steinberg has no energy background. His LIPA biography describes him as a lawyer whose “practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and securities matters.” He was appointed by Governor Pataki after being chairman of the New York State Thruway Authority. The LIPA board last week named Michael Hervey, LIPA senior vice president of operations, to temporarily replace Mr. Law.

A bill providing for restoration of having an elected LIPA board, co-sponsored by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor again passed the Assembly in June. The Senate again did not vote on it. What’s its problem? LIPA desperately needs to return to its original vision with a board elected by Long Islanders which with consistency will champion and implement having safe, clean energy here.

Undergrounding

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 “Long Island experienced a severe weather event with near hurricane force winds greater than 72 miles per hour on March 13,” said the voice on the Long Island Power Authority’s “electric service problem reporting line” late last week. That “severe weather event” caused, said the voice, 263,000 of LIPA’s customers — that’s a quarter of the 1.1 million LIPA customers — to lose electricity. “All customers should be restored by tonight.”

If a nasty nor’easter could result in a quarter of LIPA’s customers losing electricity because of trees and branches falling on LIPA lines, what would the impact be of a hurricane?

In a conversation with a lineman last week, I asked: “If 75 mile-per-hour wind results in a quarter of LIPA customers losing their electric service, what would happen if the winds were 100 miles-per-hour?” He responded that LIPA “would be screwed.” More than LIPA would suffer that fate, of course. Hurt badly would be the people of Long Island — for which a big hurricane is due.

If this nor’easter could cause a quarter of LIPA customers to lose service, it can be expected that a hurricane — especially one of the mega-hurricanes that have been striking elsewhere in the U.S. with 100-plus miles-per-hour winds — would lead to most LIPA customers losing electricity for a very long time.

It’s time underground electric lines are reconsidered.

A 2005 study done for LIPA maintained that it would cost $33 billion for LIPA to underground its lines. That followed a 1998 report LIPA also commissioned which estimated the cost at $14.7 billion.

LIPA insists undergrounding is unaffordable. That contention was seconded in an editorial last week in Newsday stating: “Burying the lines isn’t affordable, so we need to deal with the trees,” especially “problem ones.”

LIPA has had an ambitious tree-trimming program as a result of what happened when Hurricane Gloria hit in 1985. That was 25 years ago so many Long Islanders might not know that although electricity provided by LIPA’s predecessor, the Long Island Lighting Company, was out for more than a week, homes and businesses were still able to use their phones — because New York Telephone had a program of undergrounding its lines.

As Bruce Reisman, its PR representative, explained then: “New York Telephone began placing cable underground whenever feasible in the early 1970s in connection with a nationwide trend to avoid visual pollution and increased corporate concerns for cost reduction… Cost studies clearly indicated to us that it would simply be less costly for us over the long term to place much of our telephone cables underground. It is generally less expensive to maintain a telephone plant when it is underground. This is because underground facilities are less likely to be damaged by falling trees or branches, high winds, ice storms, etc… The majority of our telephone cables on Long Island, 69 percent, is now underground. This appears to have benefited us during Hurricane Gloria. Despite the hurricane, we were able to maintain telephone service for about 96 percent of our more than one million Long Island customers.”

LIPA on its website says that “more than 2,200 lineman and 1,000 support personnel” were needed to restore service after the nor’easter. The cost will be many millions of dollars.

If a big hurricane strikes and Long Island and its commerce are brought to a virtual standstill for an extended period because of no electricity, the cost to Long Island would be far, far more.

The best forum in which a debate over underground versus overhead electric lines on Long Island could be conducted would be an elected LIPA board. But there is no such democratic entity running LIPA (as the law setting up LIPA required). LIPA has taken to functioning like a utility counterpart of the MTA.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor, long an advocate of underground electric lines and an elected LIPA board, comments: “This is an issue that the public seems more interested in than the LIPA [appointed] board.” Mr. Thiele, meanwhile, endeavors to get electric lines underground — most recently in a major project in Montauk for which Congressman Tim Bishop, he noted, is working to get federal funding assistance.

“It’s not financially feasible to do it all at once,” says Mr. Thiele of undergrounding the entire LIPA system. “But we must try to seek every opportunity to do it.”

Shed Light on LIPA

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By Karl Grossman

A bill to provide more light on the Long Island Power Authority was introduced last week by Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine. LIPA instantly began lobbying the legislature to reject the bill. What’s LIPA afraid of?

Introduction of the measure follows bipartisan passage last year by the New York State Legislature—and then a gubernatorial veto—of a bill aimed at bringing oversight to LIPA rate hikes. Governor David Paterson “at LIPA’s urging, vetoed it,” noted Newsday last week.

This bill would have required that any attempt by LIPA to increase customer rates by more than two-and-a-half percent in any 12 month period be approved by the state Public Service Commission. This “is the same standard that has applied to investor-owned and other municipal utilities for decades,” points out the Public Utility Law Project of New York in a critical report on the Paterson veto on its website.

“LIPA was supposed to become the people’s power authority. That has not happened,” declares Ian Wilder of North Babylon, co-chair of the Green Party of New York State, on his website. “When LIPA was first set up, there were supposed to be elected members of the LIPA board…That never happened. They are all appointed; with no accountability to the public…Vetoing a bill that the legislators passed to try to give some accountability is just another step backward.”

Mr. Romaine said last week: “Transparency is very important regarding LIPA.”

His bill speaks of LIPA “rates and practices” not being “in the best interests of all of its ratepayers in Suffolk County” and says an “oversight” panel should be established to “determine if LIPA’s actions are adverse to the county’s ratepayers and may warrant the consideration of legal action.”

Under the measure, a seven-member task force would be formed, co-chaired by the chairman of the legislature’s Consumer Protection Committee and Economic Development, Higher Education and Energy Committee. It would hold hearings and issue a report and “recommendations for action, if any.” All members would be unpaid. There’d be a budget of no more than $5,000.

A legal basis for the task force, the bill notes, is a 1999 measure passed by the legislature, signed into law by then County Executive Robert Gaffney and approved by Suffolk voters in a countywide referendum.  The “Charter Law Ensuring Consumer Protection Oversight of LIPA” empowers the county to act to watchdog LIPA because, among a series of reasons, “an unelected LIPA board is incapable of providing consumer protection.”

In response to the Romaine bill, LIPA issued a statement holding: “LIPA does not see the need to create another level of government and oversight as LIPA is already subject to stringent oversight by the New York State comptroller, attorney general, Public Authorities Control Board, and a 15-member board of trustees appointed by the state legislature, and we are also responsive to and appear before both Suffolk and Nassau [Legislatures’] County Energy Committees when asked.” It also mentioned the recent passage of a state Public Authorities Reform Bill.

“It would be a small, select committee with a limited budget of $5,000. If you are scared of that, what are you hiding?” commented Mr. Romaine of Center Moriches.

LIPA was set up after a long citizen’s campaign as a way to stop the Long Island Lighting Company’s Shoreham nuclear plant project. It was supposed to be a public power entity through which Long Islanders would—democratically—chart our energy future. It would be a counterpart here of the Sacramento Municipal District or SMUD in California.

As SMUD explains on its website, it was “founded with the idea that providing electric power to Sacramento was a job best done by a public utility overseen by an elected board of directors. For 60 years, we’ve done just…Our vision is to be a leader in customer satisfaction and a positive force in promoting community benefits.”

But soon after LIPA’s formation, election of its trustees was scuttled. In its opposition to elected trustees and its moves to limit oversight, LIPA has been taking on the colorings of the kinds of authorities and commissions that public works czar Robert Moses fashioned in New York State. Soundly defeated when he ran for governor in 1934, Moses emphasized instead getting and exercising power by establishing and running authorities and commissions insulated from the democratic process. With these, he rammed through his projects.

This kind of undemocratic arrogance is diametrically opposed to what LIPA is supposed to be about. What’s LIPA afraid of? And why can’t it return to its original democratic vision?

Hold the Tip

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Well, the lines have been buried and our vistas are preserved. Hallelujah! Now that we’ve gotten what we wanted, it’s time to ask for the check. But be prepared — like the unscrupulous waiter who slips an extra appetizer or two onto the bill when its delivered to the table, LIPA is billing us for a little more than we bargained for.

When LIPA let us all know it was going to cost $30 million to bury their new transmission cable, rather than the $20 million they were willing to spend on burying only part of it, residents opted to preserve the views and select LIPA customers in Southampton were given the task of taking on the burden of paying LIPA back the extra $10 million based on their electrical usage.

This week, LIPA let us know it was, in fact, about $10 million that will need to be repaid. OK, fine, we agreed to that. We knew what was coming.

But wait, then there’s the “administrative costs” (read: extra appetizer). In this case, it’s not a pupu platter we’re being charged for, but rather the cost of upgrading LIPA’s computerized billing system so it can calculate and add the appropriate surcharge to each customer’s bill to cover the burial of transmission lines. And then take that money from us.

The cost of this upgrade? A cool $1.2 million.

Yes, you read right, $1.2 million — to update the LIPA-owned computer system in order for it to extract from our pockets the agreed upon $10 million. That’s like a restaurant adding a surcharge onto the tab to cover the cost of the new cash register.

Hmmm. Seems a tad excessive to us. We’ve agreed pay for the line, now we have to pay for LIPA to figure out a way to take the money from us. Come on. Give us a break. The MTA payroll tax, LIPA overages, severe financial woes in Southampton Town, decreased mortgage tax revenues, high assessments. This pie has been divided so many times, that we’re scraping the bottom of the plate now. There’s nothing left to give.

Not even a tip.

Second Noose Found in Sagaponack

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By Marissa Maier

On Sunday, January 25, a noose was found hanging from a tree along a secluded hiking trial in Sagaponack near the Long Island Power Authority right-of-way. It is yet to be determined whether this incident is connected to the noose found in almost the same area in October 2008. The Suffolk County Police Hate Crimes Unit is currently handling the case.

According to Suffolk County Detective Sergeant Robert Reecks, a man walking his dog on Sunday morning noticed the noose. The location of the incident was within the jurisdiction of the Southampton Town Police. Police officers processed the scene and removed the noose from its location. In accordance with new legislation pertaining to hate crimes, Southampton Police later deferred the case to the county.

The legislation was enacted in response to a noose discovered on October 27, hanging 20 feet above the ground from a LIPA tower. Prompted by the Southampton Anti-Bias Task Force, Southampton Town Police Chief James Overton developed a formal procedure for investigating hate crimes within the town. The procedure stipulates that hate crimes will be handled by the county.

Det. Sgt. Reecks said the rope from the noose would be tested for trace evidence to see if it shares any similarities with the first noose. Reecks added that it is difficult to determine the motive behind the incident and who planted the noose because of the remote location of the crime scene. There is only one residence near the site and the trails are often impassable during the winter. The trails by the LIPA right-of-way are out of sight from the roads and are “deep in the woods” said Reecks. Two county detectives visited the site on Tuesday morning and were forced to use four-wheel drive in order to reach the location.

If a suspect is found and if the noose was planted with the intent of threatening another based on their race, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation, the suspect would face charges of aggravated harassment in the first degree, a felony.
“It isn’t really a hate crime at this point,” said Det. Sgt. Reecks. “Right now I have a noose hanging in the woods and we are investigating it at face value. [At the moment,] we are looking at this as an incident versus a crime.”

In response to the incident, Southampton Town Councilwoman and liaison to the town’s Anti-bias Task Force Anna Throne-Holst said “It is obviously a disturbing thing to find a second noose in such a short time . . . I think no matter what happens, it is important that we are investigating this and sending the message that we are a community on notice. This is an opportunity to send a message to the perpetrator that we don’t accept this behavior and that it is not a joke.”