Written by Ronald Scaglia Friday, 09 November 2012 00:00
At a special Nov. 5 village board meeting, which was held because of the postponement of the previous week’s meeting due to the hurricane, the board attended to routine business. However, one glance at the faces of the board members, and it was easy to see that the past week has been anything but routine. With Massapequa and Massapequa Park having been hit so destructively by the massive storm, local officials have been constantly working to attend to the needs of the residents, and it was easy to see the toll it has taken, as the normally upbeat board members looked tired and weary.
Adding to their fatigue is frustration with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). A week after the storm hit, village residents, including some village officials, remained without power.
“It’s dark and cold,” said Trustee Tina Schiaffino about areas within the village in which power had not been restored.
“Residents are uncomfortable leaving their homes,” added Trustee Teresa Spinosa, who explained that many were staying in the frigid and extremely uncomfortable conditions, afraid to leave their homes unoccupied.
Mayor James Altadonna expressed similar exasperation at LIPA’s delay in getting electricity restored to village residents. In the days after the storm, village hall was opened so residents could get a hot cup of coffee, a meal, charge a cell phone, and just escape the awful conditions of living without power in a storm damaged area. Many of those residents have asked the mayor for help, and he seemed infuriated at not having information that he could pass on.
“All of our frustrations come from LIPA’s inability to provide timely information that we can disseminate to our residents,” said Altadonna.
Schiaffino added that while living without power is difficult enough, not knowing when the power may be restored adds to the angst. She also took issue with LIPA’s efforts to communicate meaningful information to its customers and local officials.
“There’s no hope,” she said of the power situation. “There’s no end in sight. There is a lack of communication.”
Altadonna added that he is not only frustrated by the lack of communication, but at LIPA’s delay in getting power restored to all residents. He stated that after the long delays in restoring power after Hurricane Irene, the village responded to LIPA’s issues from that storm in an attempt to prevent long delays in power restoration from occurring with Sandy. However, despite the village’s efforts, eight days after the storm, many Massapequa Park residents did not have power.
“We learned from Irene that the impediments were the trees and the wires,” said Altadonna. “That was the excuse for LIPA not to clean up and restore power in a timely fashion. We knew this storm was going to be very large and dangerous. The village hired an outside tree crew that was comfortable working with the wires and that also had the proper equipment. They cleared the village of all trees in the road. By Tuesday, LIPA had more than a third of the village open to restoration. We did not see a LIPA truck until Friday.”
Spinosa said that local officials participated in twice daily conference calls with LIPA officials. She said that although those calls were meant to keep local officials updated in the situation, all the calls did was add to the frustration.
“There was no restoration plan despite what they had told us,” said Spinosa, who was visibly frustrated by LIPA’s efforts. “They were unorganized. They had conference calls twice per day and there were never any updates.”
Congressman Peter King has expressed similar dissatisfaction with LIPA. In a statement released by his office, the congressman called on the power authority to immediately remedy its poor customer service and improve its inadequate sharing of information with residents who are without power.
LIPA’s failure to keep customers informed of the latest information on conditions and improvements is simply unacceptable,” King said in the statement. “County Executive Mangano and I have heard so many complaints from many Long Island towns and neighborhoods about the ‘arrogant’ and unhelpful attitude of so many of LIPA employees as well as LIPA’s failure to respond to legitimate inquiries from those without power.”
New York State Senator Charles Fuschillo had a similar opinion. When contacted by the Massapequan Observer, he stated, “I’m extremely disappointed with the performance of LIPA. They knew this storm was coming. Their preparation and communication has been a complete failure.”
In other village news, the public hearing to consider the bid for a taxi franchise by Long Island Checker Cab Corporation was held. No questions were asked. Long Island Checker Cab was the only corporation to submit a bid. The board also authorized the mayor to enter into an agreement with the county to accept $37,500 for the restoration of homes. The board also authorized the mayor to execute a nondisclosure agreement with National Grid concerning the Morwood Oaks’ municipal gross receipts tax audits for the village. The mayor explained that the company is auditing what the village gets paid from franchise fees to make sure the village is getting paid properly. The board also approved two sign permits and a mother/daughter application, authorized budget modifications and also authorized the village administrator to advertise the 2013 village election. The board also authorized an auditor’s report of the Justice Court. Altadonna said he was very happy about that report, as it was, as he described, “pristine.”