LIPA inspection rules have homeowners frustrated
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The transformer lay on the ground near Dan Mazzola's Bayview Avenue home Thursday in Massapequa, as power lines and poles snaked down the block. Even the cable that feeds electricity from the transformer to his house had snapped and ran along the side of the home.
Richard Bivone, president of the Empire Electrical Inspector Association, one of hundreds of inspectors dispatched to coastal communities by the Long Island Power Authority and some towns this week, diagnosed the damage and told Mazzola that it looked bad -- but that the problem could be solved.
It was one of many exchanges on Long Island since LIPA required homes in flooded zones to be inspected because the saltwater from superstorm Sandy could have damaged wiring and electrical panels -- fire hazards.
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Bivone told Mazzola he could hire an electrician to fix the cables entering the home right after a LIPA technician repairs the transformer pole.
"I'm disappointed because now I have to wait for LIPA to put a pole in and then get an electrician," Mazzola said of the process. "That, I think, is going to be the rub."
Next door, Richard Jendzo, assistant chief inspector, noticed a generator was wired into an electrical meter whose cover had been removed and said it was a potential fire hazard.
"It's illegal, number one," Jendzo said. "You're running off a little 12-wire cord which is undersized for whatever they might have in there."
The desperation in the neighborhood echoes that of many homeowners who have been waiting 11 days for their power to be restored and who must wait still longer to have their homes assessed by inspectors.
Bob Marascia of Brick Kiln Creek in Oakdale has called LIPA, visited its website, interrogated linemen working nearby, he said, all without results.
Desperate to get his home back on line, he hired an electrician for $50 to inspect his home and got good news: there was no damage to his electrical system and LIPA could reconnect him.
So when an inspector from the Town of Islip showed up to do the same thing Thursday, Marascia lashed out. "This is the most disjointed operation," said Marascia, 58. "There's no coordination."
Some town governments such as Islip have stepped in and begun deputizing firefighters as inspectors.
Islip has conducted 8,500 building assessments since last week, categorizing homes in three categories: eligible to be reconnected, in need of further work or not ready for power.
About 5 percent of homes inspected in Islip were deemed uninhabitable, officials said.
Islip Town Councilman Steven J. Flotteron (R) said he understood the frustration.
John Danz, a Bay Shore volunteer firefighter who once worked as an electrician, inspected 80 homes Thursday in Islip. Of those, Danz said, the majority were thankful for the town's efforts. "Everybody wants to know when their electricity is coming back," he said. "I wish I had an answer."
David Dale was ecstatic when Danz cleared his mother's Bay View Road home in Oakdale. His mother, Dorothy Dale, 73, had been staying with him at his Sayville home since the storm hit. Now that she'd been cleared, he was hopeful power would return soon. "You guys are great," Dale told the inspector. "Thank you so much."
Dale, 51, said he understood the volume of work that LIPA faced after the storm. He said he was just relieved that the home that his mother has lived in since he was 4 hadn't flooded.
"We're patient," he said. "It's more of an inconvenience. We're blessed that we have our home."