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PSEG to refund East Hampton $80,000 after audit finds overpayments

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc on

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc on Nick's Beach in Montauk on May 14. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

East Hampton Town officials are expecting an $80,000 refund from PSEG Long Island after a town audit found the municipality overpaid the utility to power its streetlamps.

East Hampton Town’s electrical supervisor Barry Bennett noticed the town was being charged for 883 streetlights when he had physically counted only 764, town officials said during a town board work session Oct. 9. A PSEG spokeswoman said the utility sends out a letter each year informing municipalities of the number of streetlights it has on file and said it is the municipality’s duty to update its numbers. PSEG does not own the streetlamps and they are not monitored by a meter, she said.

Still, the utility company required documentation to log the change.

“PSEG had no way to cross-reference what Barry found,” town Parks and Buildings Department maintenance supervisor Severo Kristofich, who performed the audit, said during the work session.

Kristofich, who used a PSEG geographic information map to conduct the audit, said he volunteered to cross-reference PSEG’s data with the town’s findings because of his familiarity with the mapping system.

“I started going out and I started plotting numbers. It was not easy,” he said during the work session. “It took me about seven weeks total.”

Working with PSEG staffers, Kristofich found that in some instances Bennett had counted one light when two were affixed to a pole, which accounted for some of the discrepancy. Still, Kristofich’s final audit tallied a difference of 47 lights.

He also found that the town was in some instances charged for a 400-watt bulb, which cost $23 per month, when it was only using a 75-watt bulb, which cost $4.46 per month. The highest wattage bulb the town uses is 250 watts, he said.

The miscalculation resulted in the town being overbilled $1,577.03 per month, or $18,924.26 per year for more than four years. The credit will offset future town utility bills, according to a town board resolution adopted Oct. 18.

“You are to be commended for your excellent work,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said during the work session.

PSEG spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said Monday the utility worked with the town on the audit and has since updated its records.

"PSEG Long Island worked with the Town of East Hampton to reconcile their streetlight accounts,” she said. “Once the town was able to update its records and provide an accurate report to PSEG Long Island, we were able to recalculate the bill.”

The town had not previously examined the figures, Van Scoyoc said on Monday

“We have multiple accounts,” he said. “We didn’t know about it until we reviewed what they were charging us.”

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