23 Aug 2014
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Letter: LIPA Management Must Go

A resident addreses the failures of the LIPA board and managers during the response to Hurricane Sandy.

Letter: LIPA Management Must Go

The following was submitted as a Letter to the Editor by Thomas Bjurlof, a resident of Port Jefferson:

IPA Chairman Howard Steinberg said this yesterday according to Newsday:

"Steinberg promised that LIPA trustees would demand a full action report from utility management on the storm response to get an understanding of where the lapses occurred. "We're going to do a thorough review, from soup to nuts, and we're going to hold National Grid and our [LIPA management] team accountable," he said."

... and here is LIPA Trustee Neal Lewis:

"LIPA board member Neal Lewis said debt from the never-opened Shoreham nuclear plant has been a "constraining factor" in LIPA's ability to spend money to make necessary upgrades."

There is a time to talk and a time not to talk. Yes/no?

The quote "Never explain, never complain" is often attributed to Henry Ford (and also to Benjamin Disraeli). It is a good management maxim.

It is the duty of a board of trustees to understand and communicate the mission of a company, they are responsible for policy; that of the management to execute policy. LIPA's mission is to deliver electric power to its customer reliably and inexpensively. They have failed on both counts.

There is only one valid conclusion: the hapless group of LIPA managers and trustees must go. They have not done their job. When you are not able to do your job, you are fired. It is hard to understand what else needs to be said.

I have spoken with several work crews the last two weeks. Tree men, pole men, linemen, you name them. Good hardworking people. They are as frustrated as the residents who do not have power. I walked the woods with a foreman trying to decipher obsolete hand scribbled erratic maps. We found the problem, only to determine that it was beyond his area of responsibility. A transformer apparently blew up when power was turned back last Monday. We needed a different team that operated from a different substation.

So let's call headquarters to get the required team into the area, I suggested. Can't do that. Nobody to call. So let's find a supervisor. We did find one, but he explained that his job was to bring lunch to the crews, not to supervise the operation. So let's find a LIPA or National Grid executive in the field. There aren't any, at least not in this area. So let's go then to the LIPA board member who lives in the area. No no, can't do that.

So the residents freeze in the dark while LIPA holds press conferences. In my area a transformer needs to be replaced. It has been that simple a problem for a week. Oh no, we must blame it on the Shoreham debt or the prohibitive cost of hardening the archaic electric system on Long Island.

Infrastructure is not the issue today. It will be in due time. Today there are 30 customers in the dark and cold in my area and Messrs. Steinberg and Hervey are not able to bring a replacement transformer. That is the issue. Do they not understand that this is exactly what their job is: to serve their customers.

Leaving the citizens in the dark (and cold) is the issue. And doing so because LIPA can't find a crew to fix the problem. They are here somewhere we have been assured.

I suggest that incompetence of oversight and management are the first issues to address. Please no more studies!

Thomas Bjurlof is a resident of Port Jefferson and consults on energy and information technology for numerous international firms.

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