LIPA hires temp staff to help with Sandy bills, PSEG transition

A maze of power lines emanates from LIPA's A maze of power lines emanates from LIPA's Port Jefferson power plant. (Aug. 5, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

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The Long Island Power Authority, faced with a mountain of superstorm Sandy invoices and an exodus of some key staffers since Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced plans to greatly reduce its role, is turning to temporary staff to help fill the gap.

In June, LIPA signed contracts with four temp-staffing and search firms to help fill the slots, each with a contract value of as much as $1.6 million, according to state records. The firms, Tempositions of Manhattan, the Execu Search Group of Manhattan, Randstad North America of Wakefield, Maine, and Montco Inc. of East Brunswick, N.J., each have contracts extending to May 2016.

LIPA spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said temporary hiring was needed for three reasons: to help the authority scrutinize and process more than $800 million in bills from superstorm Sandy; to prepare LIPA for "structural changes" resulting from the recently passed LIPA bill and the transition to PSEG of New Jersey; and because of "departures of some key staff."

"LIPA needed a backup plan to ensure it had the staffing resources necessary to provide continuity of service with expert and readily accessible outside support during and through transition," Flagler said.

LIPA currently has 96 employees. Staffing at LIPA was once as high as 105 employees in fiscal 2011. While Cuomo initially envisioned a reduction of LIPA staffing to around 20 people, the final language in the bill allows LIPA to "take certain measures to ensure that future staffing is kept at levels only necessary to ensure that the authority is able to meet its core obligations."

Cuomo administration officials have said elimination of some LIPA contractors would provide a path to "synergy savings" expected from the PSEG transition and a promised three-year rate freeze.

Exactly how staffing levels will change come January is uncertain. By then most of LIPA's work will transition to PSEG, which is preparing to take on more than 1,200 unionized National Grid workers and a management staff of its own. Flagler said it's expected that by January, "LIPA and its service provider will have the resources necessary" to provide service.

However, "if any temporary gaps exist, pending the service provider's ability to hire, or for LIPA to maintain the core competencies envisioned in the legislative overhaul of LIPA, that temporary service support would be immediately available."

In addition to the temp staffing contracts LIPA has entered, the authority in March also entered into multiyear contracts for information technology consulting services. The contracts, to Unique Comp Inc. of Long Island City ($3.6 million), Source of Future Technology Inc. of Manhattan ($833,333), 22nd Century Technologies Inc. of Somerset, N.J. ($833,333), Power Analytics Corp. of San Diego ($666,666) and Xtensible Solutions of Greenwood Village, Co. ($666,666) all extend through February 2018. Another IT contract valued at $1.3 million and extending for the same period is for Lockheed Martin Services, a division of the firm that is working with PSEG to operate the local grid.

LIPA is also continuing with a five-year contract, enacted in May 2012, with Proof Integrated Communications, a Manhattan ad agency affiliated with media firm Young & Rubicam. LIPA is paying Proof $28,000 a month, according to a LIPA board resolution.

Mark Gross, a LIPA spokesman, said the company is "responsible for the advertising and marketing to help LIPA promote key critical messages and programs to our customers."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the amount LIPA is paying Proof Integrated Communications.

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