Greenport businesses say they lost money during power outage last week

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A villagewide power outage in Greenport last week that left some neighborhoods without electricity for up to 12 hours led to steep financial losses for local businesses at the height of the tourism season, officials said.

The early morning outage Thursday initially affected the entire village -- about 1 square mile in size with a population of 2,197 -- as well as power customers outside the village boundary, said Village Clerk Sylvia Lazzari Pirillo.

Power was restored to most areas within several hours, but two sections of the village, including a busy part of Front Street, remained dark well into the evening, officials said.

On Friday, the village released a statement detailing a series of complications that delayed restoration of power after the outage, which officials said was caused by a malfunctioning relay switch that tripped during circuit breaker testing.

Deborah Pittorino, who owns the Greenporter Hotel on Front Street, said she had to refund 80 percent of her customers' payments on Thursday. "People with families, people with babies, people with needs," she said, "and we couldn't help them."

She estimates the refunds cost her about $10,000 -- and she expects additional losses from lost bookings, overtime pay for staff who remained to assist customers to their rooms in the dark, and refrigeration and computer repairs for problems caused by the outage.

Pirillo said village staff continued to answer calls from business owners until 11:15 p.m. But Pittorino said whenever she called the village, responses ranged from "they had no idea" to "it had something to do with LIPA" -- the Long Island Power Authority, which does not run the village-owned power plant.

Across the street from the Greenporter, The Harborfront Inn was without power from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Each time staff called the village they were told it would be restored within an hour.

"We had no faith in what they were saying," marketing director Dina Kontokosta said.

Former village utilities director Bill Swiskey said the village's statement lacked any real explanation of the cause of the outage.

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"What did you do to cause that trip? Relays don't just trip," he said, noting the outage shouldn't have lasted more than 15 minutes.

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