The big buzz in the Long Island business community these days has been all about the future of the Long Island Power Authority -- specifically whether to privatize or municipalize the utility. Businesspeople and Long Islanders will have a rare opportunity to express their opinions on the issue Friday and Monday.
On Friday the business group Action Long Island is holding a public meeting that initially was set to discuss the state of the Island's aging infrastructure -- roads, sewer systems, rail lines and water treatment facilities. But Sheldon Sackstein, Action Long Island's chairman, said earlier this week the LIPA issue will be a major topic as well.
"LIPA is part of the infrastructure," Sackstein said. "We want to give the LIPA issue the best hearing we could."
For the record, Action Long Island opposes privatizing LIPA. Wall Streeters and lawyers would make "tons" of money from privatization, and little about the utility would change, Sackstein said.
About 200 people are expected at the 8 a.m. ALI meeting, at 58 S. Service Rd., in Melville.
The Long Island Association has not yet taken a position on the matter. But many Long Island businesspeople have expressed unhappiness with the idea of privatizing LIPA.
Matthew Cordaro, a former Long Island utility executive, said he figured privatization would cause an increase in rates of 20 percent or more, because private utilities rely on taxable debt, which is more costly than LIPA's tax-exempt debt. Cordaro said he favors municipalization, which would mean LIPA, instead of National Grid, would employ the more than 1,000 people who operate and maintain the distribution grid. Profit motives would not exist.
Suffolk Legis. Wayne R. Horsley (D-Babylon), who helped form the oversight committee, said, "The topic of where LIPA is going will be on the table." He said he has not yet made up his mind on the privatization issue.
Mark Seratoff, coordinator of the Commack-based Sustainable Energy Alliance of Long Island, an umbrella group for green organizations, summed up the feelings of many. "LIPA is at a crossroads," Seratoff said.
LIPA spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said that the utility's board will be "rolling out the facts and figures of the strategic choices ahead of LIPA over the next few months."