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Cortlandt Supervisor: Con Edison is 'Too Big'

Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi said she plans to file a compaint to the Public Service Commission regarding Con Ed's response to storm recovery efforts.

Editor's Note: The following was submitted by Cortlandt town Supervisor Linda Puglisi.

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All homes and areas of the town have finally had their power restored as of Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, two full weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit our region and community on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. Originally we had 5,000 homes without power (one-third of the Town).

As I have been stating in my updates it took too long for Con Ed to restore power to our community and for that matter to the region. We all understand the magnitude of this hurricane. It was the largest and most forceful storm that hit our area in many decades. Therefore, in the first few days of the aftermath of this storm we all knew it would be awhile until everyone’s power was restored.

However, when it became five days, six, seven and then ten days and two weeks before everyone had power restored it became evident that Con Edison, our sole electric company, had not prepared properly, was disorganized and did not have enough crews to service all of the communities in need. Keep in mind we had the trains closed for several days, four schools without power for a week and seventy roads closed for several days due to downed wires and trees.

It was a real disaster, not just in Cortlandt, but throughout Westchester County. How do I know Con Ed management was not prepared? They did not have the necessary out of state companies to come into our region to assist in an efficient and quicker restoration of power. In the first two days after the storm they only had one crew (truck) in our Town to service all of these outages and downed wires. Con Edison can restore the power and take care of the downed wires. It is their poles and wires. The Town crews cannot touch the wires; we have to wait for Con Ed crews. WE are at the mercy of Con Edison!

The department head in Cortlandt for highway and I were on county-wide conference calls held by Con Edison officials twice a day for two weeks, including weekends to gather information. Every community in the county (45 in total) also were on these calls, so I had to talk fast and ask the key questions. We had a limited time to speak. “How many crews for our town? How long would it take‘? Where are the needed out of state companies to help? Where is the dry ice for our area (which never was delivered by Con Edison, by the way)? When will the schools’ power be restored?” These are just some of the questions Jeff and I raised during these many calls. The information they gave to us was vague to say the least. Even their own Con Ed liaison, who was sitting in our highway garage could not receive the accurate, up to the minute data that we needed to help our residents. This was managements fault, not the liaison.

Here are some of the statistics I have gathered about Con Edison, Inc. since the power has finally been restored in our town:

Statistics:

  • Number of Areas Con Edison Services: 3.1 million electric customers

         1.1 million gas customers

         1,825 steam (water) customers 4,201,825 total custonlers

  • Areas that Con Edison Services:

          5 boroughs of New York City

          Majority of Westchester County

          Rockland County — since 1999 Con Ed has owned Orange and                   Rockland Utilities, Inc. and its subsidiaries.

  • Total Number of employees:

        2010- 15,180

        2011 — 15,016 

A reduction of 164 employees to service 4.2 million customers. Not all of these employees are workers in the field restoring power for us, or trimming trees and branches around their power lines, or assessing needed repairs or replacements to their utility polls or lines. Many of these employees are in their management.

  • The C.E.O. of Con Edison, who also serves as the Chairman and President of this very large company, is a Mr. Kevin Burke. His total compensation, including straight salary in 2011, was $10,965,047. 
  • The CFO and Senior Vice President of Con Edison, Inc. is a Mr. Robert Hoglund who had a total salary/compensation in 2011 of $2,581,524.

In comparison:

  • NYSEG (electric company) only services 175,090 customers throughout New York State and only 32,525 in Westchester County.
  • L.I.P.A. (electric company) only serves 1.1 million customers for all of Long Island, NY.

The outside crews/companies (Pike, etc.) did not get to Cortlandt until one week after Hurricane Sandy. Unacceptable! At their own admission they only had 200 Con Edison crews available for 45 communities in Westchester County (everyone experienced power outages and damage). Obviously, not enough crews for the 250,000 homes/businesses/schools/institutions without power after the hurricane in the County. As in previous hurricanes and tropical storms (Irene, Lee, Floyd and the Halloween snowstorm last year) they did not have enough crews. We told them that during and after these other storms. They did not learn from their mistakes. Therefore, I am insisting that Con Edison begins planning for the next storm, because another will occur.

a) They need to go into each municipality and assess/evaluate/survey each area hard hit for necessary improvements.

b) Begin the repairs to the sagging wires (there are many) and to the leaning utility poles (there are many). Also, immediately begin the tree cutting/ trimming and clearing necessary to free up these lines from felled trees and branches in the future.

c) Have the list of outside companies fined up ready to restore power immediately, not one or one-and-a -half weeks later after the storm.

d) Give these companies data of about each community (street maps, pole locations, names of officials in each community so they are prepared to restore power along with the Con Ed crews from day one!

e) Call upon the New York State National Guard to help. Their Southern New York State headquarters is in Cortlandt at Camp Smith and they have been deployed by the Governor to help out hard hit areas including our town.

t) Better communication with the towns/villages/cities hit hard by these storms with specific information of where their crews are, how many trucks and workers.

In conclusion, I will be filing a complaint to the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC), which hears complaints, sets rates for utility companies and licenses New York State utility companies.

The complaint will include:

a) No rate increases for the consumers by Con Edison. Do not pass along incompetency onto the consumers impacted by this storm.

b) No salary increases for the top Con Edison officials/managers.

c) BREAK-UP Con Edison. It is too big! Divide it up into a separate company for Westchester County electric consumers, one for the New York City boroughs and one for Rockland County.

We can’t, and should‘t, compete for power restoration services with New York City, nor with Rockland County. Three separate companies with three different board of directors and management teams. The monopoly of Con Edison, Inc. needs to be split up and the PSC is the agency that can and wt take action and achieve this necessary goal to best serve our area of New York State.

 A final note: In no way are these comments directed towards the Con Edison workers who risk their lives and work hard for us, but at the poor management of the top officials of Con Edison.

Summary: Con Edison, Inc. is TOO BIG and needs to be broken up into at least three separate, new, companies!

Linda D. Puglisi

Supervisor

Town of Cortlandt, New York 10567

(November 15, 2012)

sayitsnotsojack November 16, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Very well said, for too long these "Too Big" operations have gone along doing whatever they wanted to feather their nests on the back of taxpayers who are receiving less and less for their suffering. Union after union today cries out that their members are so valuable in what they do, that they should not be laid off. Just yesterday there was a quote from the Westchester CSEA union head that she wanted a contract that had no lay offs in return for members contributing to their health plans. They expound they do such a great job that their loss would be disastrous to our quality of life. If what they are doing is, so good why is everything such a mess from the country to our schools?
joshua tanner November 16, 2012 at 12:58 PM
The grid and eclectic maintenance have been decaying for years. The politicians are just making noise now to deflect blame. Cuomo is another one who is trying to look innocent as he goes after the utilities. Chris Christie ran circles around Cuomo. The storm was unusually bad but the grid is a mess. Near a relative's home workers had to stop because they ran out of a spare part that hasn't been made since the 1960s. The grid should be a national and local priority and not the stupid green energy fiascos that have all gone bankrupt because they were just money laundering patronage machines
dleighg November 16, 2012 at 01:11 PM
The day before the storm as I drove along Watch Hill Road I looked at the number of branches touching, above and below, the power lines, and knew we were in trouble. And we were. We lost power for 6 days, in the same outage that closed two schools (Blue Mountain and Furnace Woods). Con Ed clearly has not been doing the preventative maintenance necessary to avoid some of these problems. And like Linda, I saw not a single repair crew anywhere in the area until Saturday, 5 days after the storm.
JM November 16, 2012 at 04:35 PM
$14 million....a year... just for two men? Hey guys, I'm all for free markets, but really, $11M for one man and nearly $3M for another? Its a bloody utility company, that we all depend upon to survive, not a hedge fund. For starters, lower Kevin's salary to $800K a year, and Robert's to $300K. If they can't live on that, they have no business running ConEd in the first place. The $13M left over (every year from here on out) can be applied to upgrades and new headcount.
Nebraska res November 25, 2012 at 09:35 PM
WHile I don't think what ConEd did was right, most of this rants are ridiculous. When hurricane Iniki (category 5) hit Hawaii, we were out of power for over a month and without running water for over 2 weeks. Anyone here ever ate vienna sausages or army rations over a candle for 5+ weeks? This is also for a population that is a fraction of what new York had yet we still had to wait that long. Suck it up people and quit your crying!

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