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Letter: LIPA Management Must Go

A resident addreses the failures of the LIPA board and managers during the response to Hurricane Sandy.

The following was submitted as a Letter to the Editor by Thomas Bjurlof, a resident of Port Jefferson:

IPA Chairman Howard Steinberg said this yesterday according to Newsday:

"Steinberg promised that LIPA trustees would demand a full action report from utility management on the storm response to get an understanding of where the lapses occurred. "We're going to do a thorough review, from soup to nuts, and we're going to hold National Grid and our [LIPA management] team accountable," he said."

... and here is LIPA Trustee Neal Lewis:

"LIPA board member Neal Lewis said debt from the never-opened Shoreham nuclear plant has been a "constraining factor" in LIPA's ability to spend money to make necessary upgrades."

There is a time to talk and a time not to talk. Yes/no?

The quote "Never explain, never complain" is often attributed to Henry Ford (and also to Benjamin Disraeli). It is a good management maxim.

It is the duty of a board of trustees to understand and communicate the mission of a company, they are responsible for policy; that of the management to execute policy. LIPA's mission is to deliver electric power to its customer reliably and inexpensively. They have failed on both counts.

There is only one valid conclusion: the hapless group of LIPA managers and trustees must go. They have not done their job. When you are not able to do your job, you are fired. It is hard to understand what else needs to be said.

I have spoken with several work crews the last two weeks. Tree men, pole men, linemen, you name them. Good hardworking people. They are as frustrated as the residents who do not have power. I walked the woods with a foreman trying to decipher obsolete hand scribbled erratic maps. We found the problem, only to determine that it was beyond his area of responsibility. A transformer apparently blew up when power was turned back last Monday. We needed a different team that operated from a different substation.

So let's call headquarters to get the required team into the area, I suggested. Can't do that. Nobody to call. So let's find a supervisor. We did find one, but he explained that his job was to bring lunch to the crews, not to supervise the operation. So let's find a LIPA or National Grid executive in the field. There aren't any, at least not in this area. So let's go then to the LIPA board member who lives in the area. No no, can't do that.

So the residents freeze in the dark while LIPA holds press conferences. In my area a transformer needs to be replaced. It has been that simple a problem for a week. Oh no, we must blame it on the Shoreham debt or the prohibitive cost of hardening the archaic electric system on Long Island.

Infrastructure is not the issue today. It will be in due time. Today there are 30 customers in the dark and cold in my area and Messrs. Steinberg and Hervey are not able to bring a replacement transformer. That is the issue. Do they not understand that this is exactly what their job is: to serve their customers.

Leaving the citizens in the dark (and cold) is the issue. And doing so because LIPA can't find a crew to fix the problem. They are here somewhere we have been assured.

I suggest that incompetence of oversight and management are the first issues to address. Please no more studies!

Thomas Bjurlof is a resident of Port Jefferson and consults on energy and information technology for numerous international firms.

paul lojeski November 13, 2012 at 01:49 PM
I agree wholeheartedly with Thomas's contention here. But it is more punishment (certainly desrved) than solution. I would suggest the state build its own disaster response capabilities that come in to play automatically when events like Sandy occur. In those upcoming instances, the state needs to assume total responsibility for responding to the emergency. The so-called private sector has proved to be unreliable and incompetent at all management levels and must be replaced by a state created infrastructures designed soley to deal with these kinds of situations. For instance, each county should establish a state managed fuel surplus that is specifically designed to alleviate storm created shortages (surley to be repeated), in which the private sector is paralyzed by events and in which they have no reserves of their own to alleviate shortages. The Federal Government has already done this and states need to the same thing. This is just one suggestion. The bottom line is this failed response cannot be repeated in the future and we need to start now to make sure that it doesn't happen.
Marie Juarez November 17, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Day 22 with no electricity or heat! We knew that the reason the 4 houses in the middle of the block were without power because of the transformer, BUT LIPA refused to listen wen we constantly called. It was common sense when the other houses received power Monday and our 4 houses in the middle of the block with wires that all led to one same transformer didn't receive power. So we patiently called and were always told different stories, mostly how we needed to pay a lic. electrician to come to house dry house and say it was a dry house! There was zero water damage in my area. So today is day 22 and they just said "Yes we must replace your transformer." Lets hope they really come today! I am even more worried since I keep hearing the workers are mad about not getting Overtime pay and all the other out-of town workers left.
Mels Ditties November 17, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Marie...My sympathies to you..22 days and you can still write coherently...IMPRESSIVE!...I'd be drooling in a corner!... Hang in there..Hope that LIPA will get out there asap and bright you back online!!...Call bomb them...maybe that will help....

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