Report: LIPA needs elected board of trustees

03/28/2012 2:00 PM |

JULIE LANE FILE PHOTO | Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine intorduced the bill for a LIPA Oversight Committee.

Think you’re paying a lot more than you should for electricity? So does the Suffolk County Legislature’s volunteer oversight committee. Earlier this month, the six-member committee called for an elected board of trustees to oversee LIPA.

After a year-long investigation, the committee, created by a bipartisan resolution introduced by Legislators Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) and Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), concluded that LIPA needs greater transparency and the type of oversight an elected board of trustees would provide.

LIPA customers are among the highest ratepayers in the nation, but they’re being poorly served by a utility that bows to “political influence,” according to findings released by the committee at last week’s meeting.

Customers are often being overcharged and their complaints are left unresolved, oversight committee co-chairman Matthew Cordoro said.

The utility has failed to take steps to reduce its $10 billion debt, has high tax obligations, poor budgeting and lacks liquidity, Dr. Cordoro said. Because of its failure, until recently, to put its power needs out to bid, it has been paying a premium price to National Grid for its electricity. And because LIPA hires outside crews to assist in emergencies, such as last summer’s Tropical Storm Irene, there are “questionable charges” for such services.

In the 192-page report, committee members outlined the problems they identified and put forth recommendations Dr. Cordoro said would result in lowering rates. The question now, members said, is how to implement those recommendations.

Committee member Irving Like said the state requiring an elected board of directors would be a good start. Mr. Romaine pledged to write Governor Andrew Cuomo to request that a Board of Trustees be filled by members of the oversight committee.

“LIPA needs a good pot-stirrer,” Mr. Horsley said. “This is our bully pulpit.”

The full committee report is available online at lipaoversight.org.

jlane@timesreview.com

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