Elected Officials Take Aim at NYSEG

North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, North Salem Deputy Supervisor Peter Kamenstein and North Salem OEM Coordinator Kurt Guldan Credits: Somers Town Hall

NORTH SALEM, N.Y.-Unlike many of its customers, NYSEG is feeling the heat.

Elected officials pulled no punches when asked about the preparation and response of the utility company to the two March nor’easters that slammed North Salem and Somers, with many calling for the resignation of all upper-level management.

“They need to get their act together, whether or not” NYSEG CEO Carl Taylor resigns, said North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas.

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In a video on the Westchester County Government Facebook Page March 9, Westchester County Legislator George Latimer called for the resignation of NYSEG chief executive officers and all other senior management.

“Days after Winter Storm Riley thousands of Westchester residents are still sleeping in cold homes with no lights and downed power lines right outside their doors. I find this disgusting,” Latimer said in a statement.

Assemblyman David Buchwald (D-White Plains) said he also planned to call for the resignation of top-level employees at Con Ed and NYSEG.

Buchwald said restoration times from these storms should not have been comparable to October 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, because that storm affected far more municipalities and homes.

“It’s not as if all of New York or all of Long Island is experiencing the same thing,” Buchwald said. “So, when the restorations are as slow and the information is as unreliable in a situation like this, it’s a total lack of preparation.”

Somers Supervisor Rick Morrissey wrote a full storm report on pg. 11 including what steps the town and NYSEG should take to improve response in the future. As of March 9, more than 2,000 homes were still without power. The Somers School District was closed March 5-8 with no power, and even when power was restored on March 9, the buses couldn’t get to school safely because of downed trees and wires.

“I’m still out working 24/7 with NYSEG, the State Police and the fire departments,” Morrissey said. “That’s where my focus is.”

Lucas said it was frustrating for residents to see repair trucks waiting in parking lots with nothing to do because there was no one at the top directing the crews.

Sen. Terrence Murphy (R-Yorktown), like Lucas, said the issue does not lie with the actual NYSEG crews, who did the best with the resources they had.

“I would like to thank the utility workers who came in from Maine, Indiana, California, Texas, Plattsburgh, Binghamton and Quebec,” Murphy said. “I can’t applaud them enough for coming to our rescue, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to have a better [response].”

Murphy said he, along with Sen. Sue Serino (R-Hyde Park), has called on the New York State Public Service Commission to investigate the companies.

Murphy said that he proposed legislation, prior to the storm, that would have improved the situation. He called on the New York State Senate to immediately pass S7262, which would require public utilities to submit emergency preparation plans to the Public Service Commission on an annual basis. It would also require reports submitted following an emergency situation, such as this.

Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for Avangrid, parent company of NYSEG, said he will not address comments made by elected officials.

“NYSEG is steadfastly committed to restoring power back for our customers as safely and quickly as possible,” Ortiz said. “NYSEG has deployed thousands of men and women from our companies as well neighboring utilities and contractors, who have been working around the clock. We are also actively engaged with the Public Service Commission to address any operational concerns they may have. We will continue to use every available resource until power is back for all of our customers impacted by these two storms.”

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