The delivery of electric, telephone, Internet and entertainment services are crucial to our quality of life. The Port News inquired into recent developments in these areas as they affect the Port Washington peninsula.
A little over a year ago, the village of Port Washington North pressed the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) to improve the reliability of the delivery of electric services, not only in the village but throughout the peninsula. (See Port Washington News January 5, 2006). At that time, LIPA conceded that, based on various reliability measures, Port Washington was 60 percent below system average and 40 percent below identified "peer" areas. According to Port Washington North Mayor Bob Weitzner and Trustee Steve Cohen, since that time things have greatly improved. Cohen, who is chair of the village's infrastructure committee, said LIPA made a presentation to the village board about three months ago. He said, "What they told us is what we have seen-a decrease in the number of outages. It looks as if the plan is working." He added, "I am happy with the way it is going." Both Weitzner and Cohen pointed out, however, that there are specific groups of homes and certain blocks where problems remain.
LIPA's main efforts consisted of tree trimming, as well as replacement or updating of certain switches and other equipment. The improvement efforts continue, and the village is looking to LIPA to give them another update in the near future. The LIPA spokesperson did not respond to our request for information and comments.
At the root of most of the reliability problems is the fact that the electric wires are overhead. There have been various initiatives to encourage LIPA to bury the wires underground, including here in Port, efforts by the Business Improvement District (BID) and the Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington. To date LIPA has rebuffed these efforts, citing the high costs of such an endeavor. They deny that there would be a payback through reduced maintenance costs. In a previous interview, Dr. Irving Kellner, a noted economist who is a member of the Port North planning board said, "I don't know when it would pay off, but eventually any capital investment will pay off. The question is: are people willing to pay today for what will happen tomorrow?"
Apropos of another utilities issue that Port News has been following (Port Washington News April 21, 2006), Verizon has completed wiring the peninsula with fiber optic cable. This enables them to offer high-speed, reliable Internet and what they call "entertainment" services (what we would call "cable TV"). The Internet service is now available at various speeds and differing prices, and is being heavily marketed in our area. Residents who are awaiting an alternative to their current cable TV provider, however, will have to wait a while longer. Before these services can be offered, Verizon will have to obtain franchises with each of the local governments-Town of North Hempstead (TONH), Baxter Estates, Flower Hill, Manorhaven, Port Washington North, and Sands Point. Spokespersons for TONH, Baxter Estates, Manorhaven and Sands Point said that they are in the early stages of negotiation. Weitzner said that they had halted the infrastructure work in Port Washington North after Verizon started two fires by slicing through some gas lines. He said that Verizon expects to resume work soon, after presenting a plan to the village for approval. The spokeswoman for Flower Hill said that Verizon had not yet contacted that village.
Heather Wilner, spokeswoman for Verizon, declined to comment, saying, "We do not comment on ongoing negotiations." She also refused to predict when the entertainment service might be available in our area. She pointed out that after the franchise agreements are in place, the Public Service Commission (PSC) needs to give approval before the service can be offered.
The Port Washington News will continue to keep its readers informed of developments.