The County Board of Legislators spent nearly three hours on Monday grilling representatives of Consolidated Edison and New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) about the companies' response to March Nor'easters that left thousands of Westchester residents without power, many for as long as a week, and some for longer. (Just as another major winter storm is forecast overnight into Wednesday as reported here by Daily Voice. )
Reimbursements and fines, coordination with municipal officials, the process for calling in help from other utilities, and whether utilities have enough permanent crews at the ready for storm recovery, were some of the topics legislators raised.
"We need to talk broadly about … preparedness, response, coordination with municipalities and communications. The storms may have been natural disasters, but the communications failures were disasters entirely of the companies’ own making." said Board Chairman Ben Boykin, who represents White Plains, Scarsdale and Harrison.
Boykin also singled out the utilities' reliance on aid from across the country as a problem with storm recovery. "Problems with the mutual aid system are slowing response to these storms," he said. "The system is broken.”
"It seems there was...a failure in responsiveness, a failure in accuracy and a failure in dissemination of information, said Catherine Parker of Rye, who represents parts of Harrison, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle and Rye.
"The fact of the matter is, there is too much reliance on mutual aid," said Legislator MaryJane Shimsky, BOL majority whip who represents Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Edgemont, Hartsdale, Hastings-on-Hudson and Irvington. "You guys don't have enough employees to do what it is that you are supposed to be doing as a corporation, which is ensuring the reliable distribution of energy to your customers."
At the request of Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, who represents New Castle, Somers and Yorktown, utility company representatives agreed to return for a series of focused discussions about specific fixes, as well to answer outstanding questions about capital expenses, staffing and a range of other topics in a public setting.
"We're looking forward to this being the beginning, not the end, of the dialogue," Boykin said.
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