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From the Mayor: Recounting Preparations and Emergency Procedures for Handling the Recent Storms PDF Print Email

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By Mary C. Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville


Mar. 14, 2018:  After the past few weeks, I thought it would be instructive to share a diary of the process of “repowering” our village, as roles and procedures are not often intuitive.

From village hall’s perspective, the chronology was this:

From Tuesday to Thursday, February 27 to March 1, we tracked the storm via special county storm reports. We began a time-tested process of preparing for increased staffing and the fueling and maintenance of all equipment possibly needed. In addition, we also checked the new pumps at the school.

On Friday, March 2, we participated in a morning Con Edison conference call gauging the storm’s impending intensity. The Westchester County Emergency Operations Center was also activated.

At that same time, the village sent out a first in a series of emergency notifications advising residents to call Con Ed directly at 800-752-6633 in the event of a power outage. Their procedure requires calls from the individual homeowners. Calling our police department, or making the assumption that since your entire neighborhood is out they would include you as well, does not translate onto their all-important outage map.

In-house, the police department and public works staff coordinated their response to possible road closures.

On Friday morning, March 2, wind and rain began taking down power lines, necessitating immediate road closures. Concurrently, the village declared an official state of emergency. (This is one of the prerequisites required for later seeking state or federal reimbursement.) Public works employees and police officers were held over and others called in. We retained a tree contractor in advance to be on call and asked Con Ed for a municipal liaison to base at village hall. The police department began the process of tracking all downed wires, power outages, and road closures and communicated the information to the Eastchester Fire Department. Later in the evening, Con Ed sent an on-site liaison who fact-checked and updated the outage database.

Simultaneously, village staff, especially Village Administrator Jim Palmer, personally checked affected neighborhoods.

Friday night into Saturday, our DPW cleared roads of trees and debris. However, if live wires were present, they had to wait for a Con Ed crew to “cut and clear.”

By Saturday afternoon, March 3, all roads, save for Summit and Tanglewylde Avenues, were re-opened and we continued to request crew presence in our village.

On Sunday, March 4, Verizon installed four new poles on Summit and Tanglewylde Avenues and the streets were re-opened. We continued to plead with Con Ed for any crew assistance.

Finally, late in the afternoon, a crew arrived from Wisconsin, did a damage assessment, and prepared to begin restoration Monday morning.

Early Monday morning, we learned Con Edison had reassigned the crew at the last minute as a “cut and clear” team in another community. As a side note, communities that pre-emptively cleared their streets received no added benefit in increased service restoration.

We were reassured that the Wisconsin crew would be with us “first thing” Tuesday morning only to learn they, too, had been reassigned as a “cut and clear” crew. At the time, schools were still closed in northern Westchester due to live wire issues, so they were determined a priority.

Wednesday, just pre-storm number two, two Wisconsin crews arrived and restored Tanglewylde, Sturgis, and Homesdale. We continued to call Con Ed, as persistence seemed a persuasive factor, for crews to address Summit Avenue, the Hilltop, and Avon Road.

Final restorations post-storm were made Thursday through Saturday on Summit, Prescott, and Elm Rock.

Throughout the entire process, we committed to using our new “Swift Reach” notification process to share the facts as we learned them.

Sadly, it felt like the movie Groundhog Day as we relived the exact same negative experience during Sandy. 

In the post-mortem, most are agreeing that the system of mutual aid was to blame. The procedure is entirely controlled by the utilities themselves, with the New York State Public Service Commission having input only after the fact.

Immediately post Sandy, a state panel identified the Con Ed system as “deficient” and in need of reform. However, the same procedure remains in place.

Essentially, Con Ed is too slow to call for backup, this time summoning crews only after tens of thousands of customers lost power. The longer the utility waits, the farther the available crews must travel and more expenses are incurred as Con Ed must cover salaries, transportation costs, and lodging. Hence, trucks around Westchester were from Wisconsin, Florida, and Quebec.

Sadly, municipalities and their residents have little recourse. First and foremost, Con Ed is a monopoly, so bargaining power is realistically nonexistent. In addition, Con Edison’s franchise agreement with the state holds the company not liable for “conditions beyond the company’s control such as storms, floods, vandalism, strikes or fires as long as reasonable efforts are made to restore service.” 

Con Edison’s chairman and CEO recently acknowledged that the company’s information and communication system, including online outage maps and projected restoration times, experienced “very significant problems” and “the end result was something very negative.” (Many residents received the response that power was not restored due to their home community’s fault!)

Just as post-Sandy, he pledged “a review of performance once power is completely restored.”

I have joined my fellow elected officials at every state level to register our dissatisfaction, frustration, and anger at the service from a company with $1.5 billion in net annual income whose motto seems to be “let it run until it fails.”

Editor's note:  As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes press releases, statements, and articles from local institutions, legislators, and candidates. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.

 

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