20 Aug 2014
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LIPA Defends Response, Rolls Back Fees

LIPA Defends Response, Rolls Back Fees
Editor’s Note: This article was written and submitted by Joe Dowd.

In an apparent concession to thousands of irate costumers, the Long Island Power Authority announced Thursday night that they will suspend late-payment charges on their bills effective to Oct. 29.

In the first response since Tuesday to a series of detailed questions from Patch, LIPA spokeswoman Wendy Ladd said LIPA's bills went out as usual but "as bills continue to be processed, late-payment charges have been suspended for 30 days effective 10/29."

Many Patch readers got those bills this week.

Numerous Patch readers and public officials have reacted to LIPA's response to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy with derision. Many threatened to not pay LIPA and are demanding the state take action against the utility.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that LIPA was unprepared for the storm and had "failed" its customers.

Ladd could provide no immediate timetable for complete restoration of the system. Wednesday's nor'easter has clearly set back the utility, which had originally estimated full restoration by this weekend, not including the hardest hit areas of the South Shore.

Ladd said 73,000 customers were restored to power since the nor'easter hit. Wednesday's storm knocked out 123,000 additional customers.

Ladd and an electrical union official said LIPA crews are working 16-hour shifts, with eight hours off. Those crews and their trucks, many from out-of-state, were mostly out of service during the second storm, which hit Wednesday.

"They do have to eat and sleep," Ladd wrote. "We are very serious about safety and don't want to put customers or our workers in danger."

Ladd responded to widespread criticism from public officials about LIPA's response to the outages, including claims the utility was not communicating with them or their own crews.

"We are working closely with government officials and we hold calls twice a day with elected officials to update them on our progress," Ladd said. 'We are receiving more crews every day and we continue to work on this system restoring power as quickly and safely as possible.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano criticized LIPA Thursday, saying he has requested specific procedures for getting power turned on in flood areas. So far, LIPA has not responded, Mangano said.

Ladd said LIPA "will continue to work around the clock until every customer is restored." She could offer no specifics and did not address the specific criticisms of the public officials.

Patrick Guidice, senior business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1049, acknowledged communications issues have hampered the effort, but stressed the problem is the size of impacted area and the large assembly of crews.

"What makes it difficult is the enormous number of resources, of employees who have to be coordinated and who have to go in so many directions," said Guidice, whose union represents LIPA's employees.

Guidice, who compared the recent destruction to that of Hurricane Gloria, said the workers will not stop until the area has recovered.

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