O&R execs face a firestorm from Rockland officials

From left, Assemb. Ken Zebrowski, state Sen. David From left, Assemb. Ken Zebrowski, state Sen. David Carlucci, state Sen. Malcolm A. Smith and Assemb. James Skoufis attend a a roundtable meeting in Nanuet called to discuss Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in the Hudson Valley. (Jan. 25, 2013) Photo Credit: Lili Holzer-Glier

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A vice president from Orange & Rockland Utilities folded his hands in front of him and sat quietly through a barrage of criticism at the Nanuet Public Libary Friday, as local leaders from Rockland County stepped forward one after another to blast the company for a clumsy response to Hurricane Sandy and demand changes.

More than 200,000 Rocklanders lost power -- 40 percent of them for more than a week -- after the superstorm hit on Oct. 29, forcing many out of their homes and into shelters as temperatures dropped.

The meeting at the library was an information-gathering venture for the state Legislature's Bipartisan Task Force on Hurricane Sandy Relief, represented Friday by State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) and Sen. David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Orange).

For two hours, the senators listened to elected officials from Clarkstown, Haverstraw, Orangetown and Stony Point talk about what their respective areas need to fully recover from Sandy and the changes needed to improve relief and repair efforts after future storms. About a dozen officials were present.

 

While Peverly acknowledged the frustrations of local officials, he pointed out that 80 percent of his company's systems were taken out during the storm, and that recovery times were 30 percent faster than after Hurricane Irene.

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"It is our opinion there is a lot of angst and frustration in the system, probably rightfully so," Peverly said. "But the solution is not one person, it's not one company, it's not one agency."

Phillips, the Haverstraw supervisor, called for legislative oversight for utility companies, including fines up to $2 million per day for companies that do not comply with the new rules.

"Communication, accountability and consequences," Phillips said. "If there is no oversight and we are going to continue to be powerless, to be treated as if we don't matter . . . then something has to change."

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The task force has had meetings in Queens and Long Island and is scheduled to visit Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island in the upcoming weeks.

More than $30 billion in federal aid has been approved for Sandy-ravaged areas. A report on Rockland County will be completed in February, which will detail the plans for use of federal relief funds.

"These events certainly are rich in lessons to be learned. After 2011, we did make changes to our plans and we had some successes," Peverly added. "We look forward to working in partnership with everyone."

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