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.