The storm that ripped across northern and western Suffolk County Tuesday morning, leaving 82,000 customers without power, will cost ratepayers around $15 million in restoration expenses as cleanup work continues for up to two weeks, a PSEG Long Island official said Friday.
At a LIPA board meeting, LIPA officials and trustees generally praised PSEG's efforts in getting power restored to all customers in three days. PSEG president Dave Daly, who spent much of that time traveling to affected areas while overseeing the restoration, said the cost estimate was preliminary and could range between $10 million and $20 million.
PSEG restored power Thursday night to the last of those affected by the storm, marshaling 1,500 workers from on and off Long Island to clear trees, restring wires, replace poles and rebuild electrical circuits. During the restoration, the company sent out workers to the homes of affected customers to deliver water and ice, and to assure them restoration work would be completed by Thursday night.
"My hat is off to them," outgoing LIPA chief executive John McMahon said.
LIPA trustee Suzette Smookler, while also complimentary, noted communications glitches that left customers with conflicting messages, among other issues. Daly called the glitches unacceptable and said he'd look into it. PSEG will prepare a "lessons learned" report, he said.
LIPA trustees were also briefed on a plan by PSEG to work with commercial customers who were stuck in a rate class that many do not belong in, costing them thousands of dollars annually in extra fees. The rate, called 285, is generally for large commercial customers, but hundreds of small businesses, municipalities and school districts are stuck in the rate class and pay a $300-a-month charge because the rate has a no-exit clause. PSEG has proposed eliminating that clause in January as part of its rate-hike filing.
Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy, addressing trustees and PSEG, said 12 of the county's 484 meters were incorrectly classified on the rate, and he requested a refund of $121,206.84. Kennedy urged LIPA to quickly fix the problem, noting "every other municipal entity probably has these sleepers as well" and adding, "You do not need to wait until January" to fix the problem.
David Lyons, director of corporate integration at PSEG Services, said the utility has already identified 1,200 customers who would qualify to switch from rate 285 to the more appropriate rate 281. For 680 of those customers, the switch would result in a cost savings (the rest would benefit from staying in the old rate).
In November, PSEG will send letters telling customers of their eligibility to switch, and explaining the new terms. The LIPA board is expected to vote to approve the rate change at its December meeting, provided it approves the LIPA/PSEG rate-hike request.
In other news, trustee Tom McAteer said LIPA received around 60 resumes for the chief executive position, which will become vacant when McMahon departs Aug. 31. McAteer, who heads the board's personnel committee, said LIPA "did have a candidate but that did not work out as expected." LIPA said the search could go into September.