The Long Island Power Authority will "shrink from the public eye" come January, but continue operating with up to 50 employees even after PSEG Long Island takes over, LIPA chief John McMahon told Suffolk lawmakers earlier this month.

In a presentation to the Suffolk Legislature on Sept. 4, McMahon said LIPA's current staff of 92 would be reduced to between 30 and 50 employees. That's more than the minimal staff of about 20 discussed in early versions of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's effort to reform LIPA.

The final bill signed by Cuomo in July said LIPA staffing would be "kept at levels only necessary to ensure that the authority is able to meet obligations" relating to bonds, notes, statutes, contracts and activities.

LIPA spokesman Mark Gross Tuesday called the 30- to 50-employee range an estimate, and said a number of factors could influence it. They would include the role of a new Department of Public Service arm to be established on Long Island, and terms of a final contract with PSEG.

He noted that some current LIPA employees will move to a newly formed company under service to PSEG, called Servco. The unit will handle continued responsibilities, such as renewables programs performed by LIPA, Gross said.

Suffolk Deputy Presiding Officer Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), chairman of the energy committee that hosted McMahon, said the staffing number surprised him.

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"My thought is that LIPA appears to have intentions of being a larger part of the electrical scene than I was originally been led to believe," he said.

McMahon, who took over as chief operating officer at LIPA in April after a long career at Con Edison, said his role would change in coming months to that of executive director.

Before the reform legislation can take full effect, IRS approval of LIPA's tax-exempt status is required. McMahon said he expects that approval by Jan. 1.