Tag Archive | "LIPA"

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.”

Going Solar

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By Karl Grossman

Last week, for the first time, I saw our LIPA meter go backwards.

What a sight—that little wheel going not to the right, marking a draw from the Long Island Power Authority electric system, but spinning—and spinning fast—to the left. That signified that the photovoltaic panels newly installed on the roof of our house were not only supplying all the electricity we were using but feeding excess back into the LIPA grid.

And LIPA, under its net metering program, is to credit us for this electricity.

And, if those panels generate more electricity at the end of the year than we use—which is expected—LIPA is to send us a check!

You can do the same thing. Also, with tax credits and the LIPA rebate available,  you can do it with an astounding financial break—as of this year, a whopping 70 percent off the cost of a solar photovoltaic installation.

For decades I’ve been writing about solar power—including in this space. But it took doing a TV documentary this summer, “Renewable Energy Is More Than Ready,” for WVVH-TV, to make solar energy more real. Sometimes you have to be there, see something to really appreciate it.

A main figure in the documentary was Gordian Raacke of Renewable Energy Long Island. He spoke about the importance of solar, wind and other renewable energy technologies at RELI’s office in East Hampton, but I felt we should also film at his home, which he has long told me was a “solar house.” Indeed, at it was an array of solar photovotaic panels producing all the electricity he and his wife need. And also solar thermal panels providing hot water.

Mr. Raacke spoke about how affordable it was with tax credits and the LIPA rebate. (Input the title and you can view the documentary on YouTube.com.) I was convinced. My wife, Janet, had wanted solar panels for years.

So we arranged to have solar photovoltaic and solar hot water panels put on the roof of our house, a south-facing century-old saltbox in Noyac.

The work was done by Majestic Son and Sons of Patchogue. If the Obama administration is looking for infrastructure projects that produce jobs and have a grand  energy pay-off, solar energy truly is Number One.

A swarm of Majestic workers, including the company’s president, Dean Hapshe, a pioneer in solar power, and two of his sons, were all over our roof merrily installing panels. Mrs. Hapshe is office manager; Majestic is quite a family affair. (We took bids from a number of companies and the choice was hard—all seemed highly competent and highly committed to solar energy.)

Mr. Hapshe has been in solar energy for 29 years. It was his first job after graduating college. He decided, “Wow, this is what I want to do. And I’ve done it forever.”

“It’s limitless,” says Mr. Hapshe excitedly about solar power. “And it’s free.” Moreover, in recent years, with the specter of global warming, he sees it as vital. “I’m in an industry that I love. I’m really doing something good for my world.” He is thrilled with the advances in solar technology—“getting better and better all the time.”

And when he is “finished with a job, I watch that meter spin backwards—and that sends tingles up my spine every time.”

As noted, the final price is a veritable bonanza. A 3,000-watt photovoltaic system (what the Raackes have) is priced at $27,000; our 7,600-watt system $63,000. But that isn’t what you pay. LIPA reimburses you $3.50 for each installed watt of photovoltaic power. New York State provides a tax credit of $5,000. And approved last year (to run for nine years) is a federal tax credit of 30 percent of the cost of the job. Crunch those numbers: you end up paying 30 percent of the price. Tax credits for a solar hot water system, typically costing $7,500, cut its price in half.

It’s just fabulous to see, even on a cloudy day, the electricity flowing from the photovoltaic panels. It’s amazing to see, even on the cold but sunny days of recent weeks, water coming down from the roof from the thermal panels at 100 to 120 degrees.

Imagine if houses all over Long Island and the U.S. were equipped with solar panels. It’s energy independence—courtesy of the sun and a life-affirming energy technology.

East End Digest: December 11

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ARF: Cats and Dogs Calendar 

 

         The 2009 Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons (ARF) Pet Calendar is now on sale at area bookstores, galleries and specialty shops. There are more than 100 animals featured in the calendar including mutts, pedigrees, former shelter animals as well as ARF cats and dogs available for adoption. The cover features Mimi Vang Olsen’s painting of cats and dogs in a kingdom setting. The calendar also features many candid photographs, contributed by pet owners.

         “While it’s handy for keeping a busy 2009 schedule, the Pet Calendar is just as likely to find its home on a coffee table,” says Dick Huebner, an award-winning art director who designed the original calendar.

         Founded in 1974, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons has found loving homes for over 15,000 animals. ARF currently provides for the health and welfare of dogs and cats on the South Fork of Long Island and Shelter Island through shelter and adoption services, medical care, spaying and neutering programs, community outreach and humane education. The calendar retails for $25, the 2009 ARF Pet Calendar is also available at www.arfhamptons.org, as well as local retail locations and galleries.

 

Southampton Town: Justice Court Receives Grant

 

   According to Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, the Town of Southampton has been awarded a grant in the amount of $6,500 under the State’s Justice Court Assistance Program. The grants awarded through this program make it possible for the local justice courts to make renovations and purchase equipment to improve their operations and make their facilities more secure.

         Of the grant, the State’s chief Administrative Judge, Ann Pfau, said, “Town and Village Courts play a critical role in the justice system of our State. It is vital that these courts, whose jurisdiction includes non-felony criminal prosecutions, motor vehicle cases, small civil claims, and landlord-tenant disputes, be well equipped and secure. I am therefore pleased to announce Justice Court Assistance Program grants totaling almost $5 million, statewide, to help ensure that these courts which date back to the 17th and 18th centuries, are prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

         Senator LaValle added, “Local courts are the closest to the people and are an integral component of our justice system. However, town and village budgetary issues can limit their resources. This grant will help the court to better serve the community and improve the administration of justice.”

 

County Road 39: Sign Change on CR 39

 

         Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy today said that billboards cautioning drivers to watch their speed while moving through the fixed portion of County Road 39 will be changed at the request of Southampton Town officials, including Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot and Councilwoman Anna Throne Holst.

         “After our project to provide a second eastbound lane was completed this spring, we felt it was necessary to properly warn drivers to maintain a safe speed,” said Levy. “This stretch of road was known for decades for being a bottleneck, and we did not want to be victims of our own success and have drivers speeding through the two smooth flowing lanes.”

         “Hopefully that message has been delivered this summer, both to visitors and to year-round residents, and we are happy to accede to the Town’s wish for more low-key speed warnings,” Levy continued.

         The billboards received a great deal of attention when they were vandalized in early December. An unknown vandal painted over the image of a police officer leaning onto his official vehicle, while pointing a radar gun at the oncoming traffic, covering it with white paint. The vandal spray-painted “Thank You” on the westbound side of the road and “Please” on the eastbound side.

 

Riverhead: Ribbon Cutting for New Unit

 

         On Thursday, December 4th, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, and Health Commissioner Dr. Humayun Chaudhry officially opened the county’s second state-of-the-art digital mammography unit in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The site of the new mammography unit is located at the Riverhead County Health Center.

         “This is a tremendous benefit for our patients,” said Suffolk County Health Services Commissioner Humayun Chaudhry. “We are proud that the county has taken such a proactive role in bringing this resource to our patients and in advancing the quality of health care services for our citizens.”

         The new unit in Riverhead is the second digital machine to come into operation in Suffolk under Levy’s leadership. In 2006, Levy sponsored a resolution to modify a portion of the first floor of the Health Center to accommodate the equipment, which was performed as part of the ongoing renovations to the Riverhead County Center. The first digital unit was installed in Coram in 2006; Suffolk is also proceeding with the availability of digital mammography equipment for its health centers in Shirley and Brentwood.

 

 

Suffolk County: A Gift of Food

 

         During their general meeting, on Tuesday, December 2, the Legislature by Certificates of Necessity adopted an amendment to the 2008 Operating Budget, which will provide an additional $20,000 of funding to the Island Harvest. Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman introduced the resolution that made these amendments possible, and was readily adopted in order to expeditiously make these funds available to Island Harvest. During this holiday season and in these challenging economic times, many more families will be able to receive additional food assistance.

         Island Harvest is one of Long Island’s largest hunger relief organizations that serve as the bridge between those who have surplus food and those who need it. Their volunteers and staff collect food from over 600 local restaurants, caterers, farms, and other food related businesses; and distribute it to a network of close to 500 soup kitchens, food pantries, residencies, shelters. Last year Island Harvest provided nearly 7 million pounds of food to local hunger relief organizations.

 

Suffolk County: Good Samaritan Diva

 

         Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) attended the Red Hat Divas Christmas luncheon to thank the ladies who collected supplies for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The divas collected donations from friends, family and neighbors over the last month. They contacted Legislator Schneiderman’s office, an official drop site for supplies donated to the U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Legislator Schneiderman has been working with the Family Readiness Group representing the Fighting 69th Army Reserve National Guard, collecting donations for the servicemen and women. These items include AA batteries, insect repellant, flea collars, and bags of charcoal briquettes for troops stationed in Afghanistan.

         “The County of Suffolk and its residents owe a debt of gratitude to our brave servicemen and women who often find themselves in dangerous and hazardous circumstances and give their lives for their County, making the ultimate sacrifice in the service of others, ” Legislator Schneiderman said. “I am pleased to assist in any way possible and encourage donations of these items for our troops.”

 

New York State Assembly: Request for LIPA Audit

 

         State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., and State Kenneth P. LaValle have sent a letter to State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli requesting that its current audit of LIPA include the Southampton to Bridgehampton Transmission Line Project.

         LIPA originally proposed an approximately nine-mile transmission on the South Fork in the Town of Southampton from Southampton Village to the Hamlet of Bridgehampton. LIPA had proposed that the transmission line be constructed 45% above ground and 55% below ground through the heart of the South Fork’s farm country, where substantial amounts of land and scenic vistas had been preserved with public dollars.

         There was universal community outrage and opposition to the LIPA proposal including litigation. In response, Thiele and LaValle mediated the dispute between LIPA and the Town and the community. After long and extremely difficult negotiations, an agreement was reached this spring. The project was completed this summer.

         The agreement provided that LIPA would contribute the cost of its original proposal towards payment of the project (estimated to be approximately $20 million.) The incremental cost of burying the remaining 45% would be borne by LIPA customers from Southampton Village to the Southampton/East Hampton town line. This charge would be based on the actual electric usage of LIPA customers in the benefited area. After the project was bid, it was estimated that the incremental cost would be about $8 million.

         LIPA authorized substantial overtime to complete the project. As a result, LIPA is now estimating that the incremental cost may be as much as $12 million. Thiele and LaValle have requested the State Comptroller determine the total cost of the project, determine whether the up to $4 million increase in the cost of the project was prudent and justified, and determine whether any portion of the up to $4 million increase should be legitimately borne by the VBA area.

         Thiele and LaValle stated that this additional expenditure of up to $4 million dollars does not in any way increase the visual benefits for those in the benefited area, if indeed such addition expenditures were prudent at all. It is certain that not all the additional expenditures were to construct only 45%, which was the subject of the VBA.

 

 

 

 

Your LIPA Surcharge is Coming

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Bob Schepps talks about LIPA surcharge at southampton town board meeting

After months of consideration, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) decided last Thursday that it will charge many Southampton Town residents and businesses a usage-based fee to pay the roughly $10 million cost for the burial of high voltage power lines that the utility installed this summer between Southampton and Bridgehampton.

The decision came after a LIPA board meeting last week where 11 board members voted in favor of the usage-based fee and 1 voted in opposition.

The visual benefit assessment (VBA) surcharge will appear on LIPA bills for Southampton Town residents east of the canal, excluding the areas of Tuckahoe, Shinnecock Hills and Shinnecock Indian Reservation beginning in April 2009. LIPA representative Ed Dumas said on Tuesday that his organization is still finalizing the costs and working towards a better fee for the customers who will have to pay. It is estimated that residents who use 12,386 kilowatts a year, for example, will pay an additional $30-40 a year, while businesses using 36,903 kwh will pay an extra $120 a year for 20 years.

The decision of whether to adopt a usage-based fee or a flat fee had been at the center of controversy in the town of Southampton because some residents and business owners feel they will unfairly carry the burden of a usage-based fee.

Bob Schepps, president on the board of the Southampton Chamber of Commerce, said although he was in favor of burying the lines, he strongly opposes the usage-based surcharge.

“Last week’s vote – in the final hour — was not unanimous, it is economically unfair in my view and there are business that will be charged much more with this VBA surcharge,” Schepps said. “It unfairly impacts local people. I live in the village and my neighbor uses their house three weeks a year – same house, same property value – and I will be paying more. I will be penalized for living here year round,” he said on Monday.

The Town of Southampton passed a resolution earlier this year where the town settled in court to accept the surcharge as LIPA proposed. Community members began to speak up against the VBA surcharge, and a meeting was held in Hauppauge in mid-September to consider the option of a flat fee, where LIPA board members were able to hear the community concerns about the surcharges.

According to Schepps, the town assumed the liability of any lawsuits dealing with the surcharge, he said, “The chamber [Southampton Chamber of Commerce] got a letter from a retired lawyer that seriously questioned the legality to hold LIPA harmless in the collection of the surcharge because there is no precedent for this – it is very challengeable in court, people will get their bills and realize what they haven’t paid attention to – and say ‘what am I paying?’”

Schepps believes there will be a major revelation in April.

Schepps also spoke at Tuesday night’s town board meeting regarding the town budget. He asked the board, “How much have you budgeted for your VBA? How much did you budget and how much have you set aside to pay the VBA and for legal fees related to the VBA?”

The town attorney said that the information is internal and confidential.

Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot’s office also released a statement this week that said, “With these conditions, should a court invalidate the VBA, the town could assign the obligations to property taxpayers within a special taxing district. However, establishing it requires state approval and a separate hearing process during 2009.”

“Our leap of faith is a little shorter since LIPA has held up its end of the deal,” Kabot said. “Now we’re counting on the state to introduce and approve legislation allowing us to set up a special taxing district to ensure coverage of the required indemnification on collections.”

“Essentially our board ratified what had been negotiated as part of a court ordered settlement on the town,” Dumas said, “The combination was unprecedented – it represents the best possible compromise on part of the parties.”

Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst said, “I’m glad they made the decision, but I am even more glad that they are expecting to see a rate lower than what was originally talked about.”

 She also said that she does, however, have a high level of discomfort for what this is going to mean for the town’s ratepayers, and those not affected by the burial of the lines. “All in all, this is probably the best solution, it was a lose-lose situation; but the lower users will pay a lower rate.”

“I’m thrilled to death that we buried these lines, but the situation has put an undue pressure on an economy that’s already under pressure,” Schepps said, “And pile on another economic burden on the businesses of these communities.”

Businesses Balk at LIPA Burial Fees

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As the Southampton Town Board deals with a slew of amendments to the green energy codes they adopted back in July in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, they are also facing an issue of how to pay for the burial of the LIPA transmission lines which were installed in the town this summer to bring more power to the area.

Ed Dumas, Vice President of Communications for LIPA, said in an interview on Monday that for two years, LIPA has worked with the community to meet the power requirements for the East End. At first, LIPA proposed to bury only a portion of a large transmission line, and run the rest overhead. But after public outcry and many discussions with the town, LIPA agreed to bury the lines completely with the additional $8 million price tag being picked up by LIPA rate-payers in the town. The last remaining hurdle in this project was for tariff amendments, which were discussed at a LIPA meeting in Hauppauge last week. Representatives of Southampton Town, Southampton Village and area residents were in attendance. At issue is whether the surcharge should be collected based on power usage, or a flat rate. Some residents and business owners are concerned with the usage based component.

Bob Schepps, president of the Southampton Chamber of Commerce says he is in favor of burying the lines, but says the usage-based fee “makes no rational sense.” Schepps said, “I agree we bury the lines to protect our vistas but I disagree with the way the town has offered to pay for them.” He further argued that, “doing this on a usage basis, unfairly puts the burden on businesses, schools, hospitals, churches, and year-round residents.”

He argues that everyone is benefiting from the visual benefits and there should be a flat fee.

“On the face [a usage-based fee]  does seem like a good idea,” Schepps said, “but within this idea are now caught businesses, a small percentage of the population, who will have to pass this charge onto their customers.” Schepps added that the hospital will have to pay $17,000 a year and may have to cut back on the services provided.

 “A deal was made that if LIPA buried the line, the residents who benefit would cover the cost,” Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot said Tuesday. “But if LIPA’s trustees back out, the whole town will be stuck with an $8 million bill.”

The residents that would be affected by a surcharge are those in the Village of Southampton, portions of Water Mill, Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor. Excluded from the surcharge district are residents of the Shinnecock Indian Reservation, Tuckahoe and all areas west of the Shinnecock Canal.

Dumas said on Monday, “Concerns are being heard very late in the game.”

Assemblyman, Fred W. Thiele, Jr. said, “Certainly I was supportive of burying those lines through the heart of farm country, but the issue is really how to pay for it,” he added, “The Town of Southampton had to make a determination, which I believe is fair.”

Town councilman, Chris Nuzzi, who attended the LIPA meeting last week, said on Tuesday, “I always thought that it should be LIPA’s responsibility to pay for the lines,” but he adds when it was up to the town to come up with a solution, “We couldn’t figure out a fairer way – this is the fairest way.” He added that by doing this, the town also will be encouraging energy conservation.

 Schepps said he did not believe that the usage-based charge will help get people to conserve energy, and said that the local businesses will have to pass this fee onto their customers.

”We had to find a creative way to deal with the energy problem, and a creative way to pay for them,” Nuzzi said on Tuesday. 

According to Nuzzi, with the usage-based fee, residents would pay off the cost of the 69 volt transmission lines in approximately 20 years.

“Everything will be heard,” Dumas said on Monday, “every voice will be considered.”

But he added, “It’s very late to suspect there will be any change.”

On October 23, LIPA’s board of trustees will meet in Hauppauge to determine if the tariff will be enacted and whether the usage based fee will be used.