The Long Island Power Authority is halfway through a hiring surge that could increase its staff by 10 percent even as the utility's board eyes options that may drastically alter its internal structure.
LIPA Thursday confirmed it hired four people for the new position of district manager. The four, whom LIPA declined to name Thursday because some have not yet left their current jobs, each will be paid $65,000 a year when they start next month, spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said.
In June, LIPA hired a new vice president of transmission and distribution operations, a position open since Michael Hervey moved up to chief operating officer last year. The transmission and distribution post was filled by Nick Lizanich, a former vice president at FirstEnergy Corp.
LIPA, which has budgeted 107 positions this year, has said it plans to hire a director of internal audit, a long-planned position the filling of which has increased in urgency amid revelations of excessive storm-related costs. LIPA recently offered the job to a candidate who turned it down, Baird-Streeter said.
A working group of LIPA trustees will meet next week to discuss strategic options for the utility. LIPA is eyeing options such as an enhanced version of the current contract with National Grid, taking on National Grid workers in a municipalization model and selling the utility to a private company.
Baird-Streeter said the hiring was needed despite potentially drastic changes in LIPA's structure. "We are still an organization that currently exists, and we want to do what's in the best interest of customers," she said.
On the LIPA board, trustee Howard Steinberg's term ends at the end of this month, but there have been no indications from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office that he will be replaced. Earlier this summer, Cuomo's office named Flushing-based construction-company owner Peter Tully to replace trustee Michael Fragin, who was appointed by Gov. George Pataki. Fragin, whose term ended in May, had been among the more vocal LIPA trustees in recent years.
In an interview, Fragin applauded the hiring of new district managers. The additions were a response to his concern that local officials during last year's storms had difficulty contacting LIPA.
"It was just inadequate," he said.
LIPA has room for more employees. Last year, it negotiated a lease to take more space in the Omni Building in Uniondale. LIPA currently has 91 employees, Baird-Streeter said.
The new district managers will be stationed in LIPA's four districts: Queens/Nassau, Central (Nassau), Western Suffolk and Eastern Suffolk. Baird-Streeter said the district managers will work with local officials, civic and community groups, and ratepayers to respond to customer issues.
"They will be the boots on the ground, establishing relationships with chambers of commerce, speaking to local residents and business groups," Baird-Streeter said. "We feel it's important. Utilities have pulled back from community relations. We see value in having representatives in our four major offices to avail themselves to communities."
They will start their jobs on Labor Day.
Other open jobs: director of performance and compliance monitoring, manager of quantitative analysis, accountant and vice president of business process improvement.