Letter: Unified utility workforce helpful

National Grid linemen work on replacing poles in

National Grid linemen work on replacing poles in Brookville in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. (Nov. 9, 2012) Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

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I support "Utility workforce split could hurt LI" [Opinion, March 18], which questions whether Long Island will be prepared to restore electricity after the next storm.

I retired from the natural gas division of the Long Island Lighting Co. 15 years ago after a 42-year career. During that time, all employees had emergency storm response assignments in addition to our primary occupations.

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We trained often for alternate electric assignments, including surveys of electric distribution circuits and maps. Some were assigned as guides for crews from utilities unfamiliar with Long Island, and others were organized into two-person crews to perform jobs like removing downed trees from power lines or making minor repairs to houses, using service trucks with added ladders and a few specialized tools.

During emergencies, some worked long shifts, answering thousands of telephone calls from customers. Other employees acted as messengers, driving vehicles with supplies, parts and other repair materials. Some were liaisons with the media and government agencies. These situations are very labor intensive.

Without doubt, there is a need for trained personnel to augment the day-to-day professionals, and the folks from our gas division were a major, necessary workforce. The Long Island Power Authority would be wise to consider this aspect of the restoration effort in examining labor needs caused by severe storms.

I also saw many retired electric and gas employees of LILCO assist with storm restoration. Many are still ready, willing and able to assist the Long Island community when it needs experienced reinforcements.

Bob Becher, Bayport


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