05/14/13 10:00am
05/14/2013 10:00 AM

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking in Stony Brook earlier this year.

Dear Fellow New Yorker,

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the Governor established the Moreland Commission to investigate utility companies’ storm preparation and response efforts, including the Long Island Power Authority. The Commission found that in addition to LIPA’s failure to perform during the storm, the organization’s structural dysfunction was responsible for poor customer service, high rates for customers, a large debt load, and an insufficient and antiquated infrastructure.

That’s why Governor Cuomo proposed legislation today to transform the utility service on Long Island into one that puts ratepayers first and focuses on ensuring better performance and accountability for customers. The Governor’s proposal privatizes the operations of the utility system, creating a structure that prioritizes customer service and emergency response, reduces the cost of LIPA’s debt, and puts in place real government oversight.

The people of Long Island deserve more value for the rates they pay, which is why the new utility company is seeking to freeze rates for three years. This will be welcome relief for a region still in recovery from Superstorm Sandy.

Click here to read more about the Governor’s detailed proposal for a new Long Island utility company.

Together, we are making government work for the people once again.

Sincerely,

The Office of the Governor

01/31/13 9:00am
01/31/2013 9:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO  |  A LIPA crew was working on a power line knocked over from the high winds that swept through the area overnight.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A LIPA crew was working on a power line on North Wading River Road knocked over from the high winds that swept through the area overnight.

A few hundred residents in and around the Riverhead area were without power this morning after heavy winds came whipping across the North Fork overnight into today. A Long Island Power Authority outage map showed 88 customers affected along Sound Shore Road in Northville.

Another 49 residents were without power near Deep Hole Road in Calverton.

LIPA expects to have power restored to those affected by late morning, according to the map.

The National Weather Service issued another severe weather warning at 7:58 a.m. for a “squall line moving across Eastern Long Island.”

There were more than 34,000 outages total across Long Island as of 8:33 a.m., according to LIPA.

While scattered showers are expected to pass the area by around 10 a.m., the wind will likely remain throughout the day, according to the National Weather Service. Gusts could reach 49 mph and wind will be sustained around 24-28 mph.

01/23/13 4:52pm
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Erek Berntsen cuts wood at a construction site near the Glass Greenhouse in Jamesport.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Construction worker Erek Berntsen near the Glass Greenhouse in Jamesport.

For most, even the easiest tasks become a hassle when temperatures start to drop.

But for many workers across the North Fork this week, being out in the cold is just part of the job.

“You can’t take a job outside and not expect to be out in the cold,” said Erek Berntsen, a construction worker at the Glass Greenhouse in Jamesport.

High temperatures reached 20 degrees on the North Fork Wednesday, about 10 to 15 degrees below normal, said Dan Hoffman, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Upton.

“The next 36 hours are going to be the coldest,” Mr. Hoffman said. Temperatures will slowly rise into the weekend, reaching the freezing point by Sunday, he said.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Herman Salazar trims grape vines at a vineyard in Jamesport Wednesday afternoon.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Herman Salazar trims grape vines at a vineyard in Jamesport Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Berntsen had been out in the cold since 7 a.m., cutting pieces of wood to build the rafters of a new farm stand on the property.

A few miles east on Route 25, Bob Boergesson, a Mattituck-Cutchogue School District crossing guard, said wind is the biggest challenge he faces in the cold.

“Layers … [cover] up as much as you can,” he advised. “It’s the wind that gets you.”

On South Harbor Road in Southold, seven LIPA workers were found using a utility trucks to trim trees away from power wires.

“It is extremely cold,” conceded a LIPA foreman, who did not give his name. “Even colder up there.”

Despite the frigid temperatures, the foreman said worker morale is still high.

“We’re always good,” he said. “We complain, but we get the work done.”

At a local vineyard, laborer Emilio Jebier used a pruner to cut away dead vines from the trellis.

“Good vines means good selection [of grapes] for next year,” Mr. Jebier said while working at Jason’s Vineyard in Jamesport. Mr. Jebier has been tending to vines for 13 years, and said he’s used to working in the cold when he needs to.

Nearby, Herman Salazar of Mattituck was also clipping vines, a black ski mask covering his face from the bitter wind.

A group of half a dozen workers had been out at the vineyard  since 7 a.m. and will keep trimming until 4:30 p.m., Mr. Salazar said. The next day, they’ll do it all again. The group works six days a week in the field.

“The snow isn’t bad, the cold [is],” Mr. Salazar said, peeling the ski mask below his face. ”Today is very freezing.”

But some workers said this week’s cold weather wasn’t the worse they’ve experienced.

“This is nothing,” said a Suffolk County Water Authority worker on Route 25 in Cutchogue. “When you have a water main break, you’re out there for 24 hours straight in the cold.”

Their advice? Keep busy.

“Working a couple years in this, you get used to it,” said another worker.

psquire@timesreview.com

01/10/13 6:00am
01/10/2013 6:00 AM

FILE PHOTO | A downed power line in Mattituck when Sandy struck the North Fork.

To the Editor:

Hearing again and again the news that Andrew Cuomo was blaming LIPA for not responding well to Sandy, and that he now wants to put it into private hands.

I keep thinking that no one seems to want to remember that his father, Mario, was the one who insisted on making LILCO a power authority run by political appointees, insisting that it was going to save us so much money and be more responsive to the needs of the residents, which in the beginning was just the opposite. They ignored the public completely; being an authority they didn’t have to listen to anyone.

Well I guess he is admitting that his father making the company an authority, with political appointees and no oversight, was an even bigger mistake.

I hope they really think this through and get it right this time.

Helga Guthy, Wading River

Read more Letters to the Editor in this week’s Riverhead News-Review available on newsstands or by clicking for the E-Paper.

12/04/12 2:20pm
12/04/2012 2:20 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead firefighters check for fire at an Ostrander Avenue house where residents reported smoke in the basement Tuesday afternoon.

A downed electrical wire near downtown Riverhead caused one person’s fusebox to overload Tuesday afternoon, filling his basement with smoke, neighbors and fire officials said.

A homeowner was hanging Christmas lights at his house on the corner of Ostrander Avenue and East 2nd Street when the lights began to glow brightly, said 2nd assistant fire chief Kevin Brooks.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | LIPA workers make repairs to a downed wire on Ostrander Avenue Tuesday afternoon.

“Everything went bright, then everything went off,” he said. The homeowner reported that the fuse box was overloaded and began smoking, though fire officials could not yet confirm the cause of the smoke.

Mr. Brooks said Riverhead firefighters arrived on scene and used thermal cameras to try to locate if there was a fire in the residence, but found no evidence of a blaze.

Around the same time as smoke filled the basement, an electrical wire feeding the house snapped loose and fell into the street.

One neighbor was on her computer when she noticed a power surge in her home when the wire went down, she said.

It is not immediately clear what caused the wire to blow; a Riverhead Fire Marshall was on the scene to investigate the smoke.

LIPA crews arrived on scene and removed the downed wire. A section of Ostrander Avenue was briefly closed by town police.

By 1:45 p.m., police and fire crews had left the scene and reopened the road.

psquire@timesreview.com

11/18/12 1:22pm
11/18/2012 1:22 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead firefighters at Minuteman Press in Riverhead Sunday afternoon.

More than 1,100 LIPA customers in Riverhead were briefly without power Sunday afternoon, causing concern in a hamlet just getting over Superstorm Sandy.

The outages were related to a malfunctioning underground LIPA transformer in front of downtown’s Minuteman Press store, officials said.

Police, firefighters and Long Island Power Authority repairmen rushed to the Main Street printing center about 1 p.m. for a reported cloud of smoke believed to be related to the outages, fire officials said.

Riverhead Fire Chief Tony White said stressed there was no fire at Minuteman Press, though firefighters did enter the building – by popping a lock — to investigate. Minuteman was closed Sunday.

An employee at nearby Digger O’Dell’s said the power never went out at the restaurant, but that the business lost cable about the same time staffers and patrons first started smelling smoke.

Nearly all the outages, including traffic lights that were reportedly out north of Roanoke Avenue, had been restored about an hour later, according to LIPA estimates.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON

11/16/12 8:02am
11/16/2012 8:02 AM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Legislator Wayne Horsley, left, blasted the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid on Thursday for hiring out-of-state electricians.

Suffolk County lawmakers blasted the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid Thursday, accusing the utilities of looking for out-of-state help instead of hiring out-of-work local electricians during Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath.

At a press conference in Hauppauge, Legislator Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), along with other members of the Legislature and representatives from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 25, said they attempted to arrange for nearly 400 licensed electricians that live locally to work with LIPA, but said the power authority never returned their phone calls.

“They were ready to work,” Mr. Horsley said. “Somehow or another, there has been a decision not to use these electricians.”

Mr. Horsley said the county had discussions in 2011 with LIPA and National Grid about hiring local electricians for future storms after failing to do so during Tropical Storm Irene’s aftermath. Prior to that storm, Mr. Horsley said IBEW workers had been called upon to help out in other storms.

Mr. Horsley said it was unclear why LIPA didn’t hire local electricians this time and said he believed it was “morally wrong” not to hire “homegrown” workers.

“They know where the streets are,” Mr. Horsley said. “They know where the poles are. They know where the intersections are when a light is down…They could have been putting our system back together again and they could have been helping our citizens who are cold.”

Legislator Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) agreed and said ratepayers could have also been spared from picking up additional hotel and meal costs.

“We have guys here on Long Island that could go back to their own homes where they could eat their own meals,” she said.

Legislator John Kennedy (R-Nesconset) called on New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group to commit to hire local workers during emergency situations. In December, the LIPA Board of Trustees approved a contract with PSEG to manage the operations of the electric grid on Long Island.

PSEG will replace London-based energy company National Grid in January 2014.

“We can’t afford to sort this out then,” Mr. Kennedy said. “We need to know their commitment and their willingness to engage these electricians so we’ll no longer have any of this nonsense.”

Officials from PSEG and LIPA weren’t immediately available for comment.

Read more in the Nov. 22 issue of The Suffolk Times in both our print and electronic editions.

jennifer@timesreview.com

11/14/12 8:10am
11/14/2012 8:10 AM

SAMANTHA BRIX FILE PHOTO | Long Island Power Authority Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey, right, at a press conference in Hicksville last year.

With 8,500 active outages still remaining on Long Island 16 days after Superstorm Sandy struck the North Fork, Long Island Power Authority Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey has tendered his resignation. Just 64 of those outages are on the North Fork.

LIPA Board Chairman Howard Steinberg offered the following statement Tuesday:

“Today, Mike Hervey, tendered his resignation as Chief Operating Officer of the Long Island Power Authority, to be effective at the end of the year. On behalf of the Board of Trustees I have accepted his resignation, with regret.

Mike has provided 12 years of valuable service to LIPA, including taking on the responsibility to perform the functions of CEO of the organization over the past two years. Mike has played a leadership role in connection with the planned structural changes at LIPA going forward which will result in better service and accountability to LIPA’s customers in the years ahead.”

We want to know what our readers think of the decision by Mr. Hervey to resign. Will it make a difference? What kind of additional changes do you think are needed at LIPA?