SOMERS, N.Y.-A meeting last week by the town supervisors of North Salem, Somers and other towns in Putnam, Dutchess and northern Westchester counties with representatives of New York State Electric and Gas will beget another, either this month or next, according to Somers Supervisor Rick Morrissey.
Somers and North Salem experienced nearly a dozen power outages last year and want NYSEG held accountable for the inconvenience and safety risks they pose to their towns’ combined 25,000 utility customers.
In reaction to the outages, Morrissey and North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas filed a complaint against NYSEG with the New York Public Service Commission, calling for more transparency and better communication.
Furthermore, in a letter to the NYSEG CEO Carl Taylor, the supervisors said they believe the long wait times for service are due to cuts in staffing and the reduction of infrastructure maintenance.
The supervisors have asked NYSEG to maintain adequate staffing in the area during storm events to make sure roads are opened quickly for emergency service vehicles. While the town and county are equipped to clear the roads of felled power lines, they must wait until NYSEG verifies the power to the line has been cut before clearing the road can begin.
The NYSEG system in North Salem consists of four transmission lines: Peach Lake, Chapel Road (Lewisboro), Goldens Bridge and Croton Falls. The Croton Falls transmission line also supplies power to portions of Somers.
The six-hour outage on Christmas that cut power to 750 homes in North Salem was caused by a breaker fire on the Croton Falls transmission line. Somers had a significantly larger population without power for a longer time.
At the meeting, according to Lucas, his counterparts voiced similar concerns. Some of these concerns are dealing with customers and giving out the wrong information, maintenance needs such as the removal of trees and fixing lines and poles, and enhancements to the overall system that are needed, including the use of newer technology.
Taylor said the company is spending $1.3 billion in capital improvements in 2018, including technology to harden the system, according to Lucas.
Lucas asked NYSEG to come back with specific information on the changes being made in the area, specifically out of the Brewster office. Lucas said in 2017, NYSEG spent $1.2 billion on capital improvements but very little of it was spent in the the North Salem/Somers area.
“So while the higher number for 2018 sounds good, it might not have the effect we desire,” Lucas said. “We shall see and expect them to come back in the next couple of months with the information.”
Morrissey said the meeting ended with an agreement to hold another meeting this month or in March at which NYSEG will provide specific information regarding its Hudson Valley operations and investment in the infrastructure.
Additionally, Lucas and Morrissey received a response from the New York Public Service Commission to their complaint about the outages.
Michael Worden, director of the Office of Electric, Gas and Water in the Department of Public Service said an investigation had begun into their concerns to determine the frequency and duration of NYSEG outages as well as NYSEG’s maintenance and replacement plans for the affected electric facilities.