Joye Brown: Utilities panel comes to LI

A LIPA electrical contractor works to restore power A LIPA electrical contractor works to restore power in Patchogue during superstorm Sandy. A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 20, on Long Island to investigate LIPA and National Grid's response to storms Sandy and Irene. (Oct. 29, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

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Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has ...

A commission empaneled by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to investigate New York public utilities comes to Long Island Tuesday night.

Cuomo's Moreland Commission is investigating how utilities prepped for and managed superstorm Sandy.

While it's likely that a number of elected officials, utility experts and others will testify, it's a prime occasion for Long Islanders to add their two cents' worth about LIPA's performance.

The hearing will mark the second time in a week that residents have had a chance -- with a two-minute time limit -- to make suggestions on the Long Island Power Authority's future.

Last week, a combined committee of Suffolk lawmakers heard from a variety of residents on what worked and what didn't work after superstorm Sandy. But for the most part, lawmakers heard suggestions about how the region could better plan for the next storm.

The lack of anger seemed to surprise some lawmakers.

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The dozen or so residents who appeared before the committee seemed more interested in reforming the region's emergency-management process than in assessing blame.

Bruce Ettenberg of the Commack Community Association wanted better communications during emergencies.

Kevin McDonald of The Nature Conservancy raised concerns about Sandy's impact on local waters. He also questioned whether Suffolk County was adequately prepared to test for toxins in waters covering lawns that Sandy left containing sewage, oil and other debris.

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Suffolk County Legis. Thomas Barraga (R-West Islip) managed to raise the thorny -- but very relevant issue -- of whether the public's interest is served when buildings in coastal areas habitually swept by storms are rebuilt.

There was discussion of the Long Island Power Authority, too, including whether board members ought to be elected.

Shelly Sackstein, co-chair of the county legislature's LIPA Oversight Committee, read aloud portions of a report that detailed what went wrong and what the old Long Island Lighting Company was supposed to fix after Hurricane Gloria in 1985. It was as if Sackstein was laying out what LIPA should have been doing during Sandy.

Among those expected to testify Tuesday night are Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, Long Island Rail Road president Helena Williams, New York Power Authority president and chief executive Gil Quiniones and AT&T New York president Marissa Shorenstein.

Cuomo -- who did little with LIPA, a state authority, during his first two years in office -- has asked his new commission to speed its work and its recommendations.

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We could hear what Cuomo plans to do about LIPA as early as his State of the State address next month.

But for those who want to add their suggestions or horror stories to the record, the time to do it is Tuesday night or during another local commission hearing on Dec. 20.

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