WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Westchester County Board of Legislators held a special meeting Monday on the power outages caused by recent nor’easters and the response by utility companies.
Tens of thousands of customers were left in the dark for days, some for more than a week.
The county board invited representatives from Con Edison and NYSEG to appear at the meeting, which followed a board resolution passed last week that criticized the companies for inadequate planning and deployment of resources.
Angry lawmakers demanded answers from the two main utilities serving Westchester. Con Ed representatives, in particular, stayed resolute in the face of the heavy criticism, defending themselves by saying the dual storms at the beginning of March led to the highest number of storm repairs for Con Ed since Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012.
“Con Ed and NYSEG are taking a beating and you have a monopoly and the impression that we have is that you don’t care,” County Legislator Gordon Burrows said.
Con Ed Vice President Kyle Kimball says that isn’t the case.
“We care very deeply about our customers,” he said. “And making sure we can restore power to them as soon as possible.”
Legislators criticized the utility company for relying too heavily on outside, mutual aid. Of the 1,200 line workers making repairs only 200 were local workers. Customers in the dark had to wait days for crews traveling in from the Midwest and West Coast.
“This was a tremendous storm,” Kimball said. “For storms this size it doesn’t work without mutual aid.”
Con Ed admitted its robocall system was constantly giving customers false hope.
“Every day we heard the same story,” Legislator Aldreda Williams said. “Power would be restored the next day at 11 o’clock and most cases, none of those deadlines were met.”
Con Ed Spokesman Philip O’Brien called the errant robocalls “inexcusable” and said the utility was “truly regretful.”
Con Ed had more than 130,000 customers, including in the northern boroughs of New York City, suffer outages during the storms. The utilities’ response drew the ire of everyone from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to Westchester County Executive George Latimer.
In all, the Tri-State Area has been hit with three snowstorms this month, with a fourth possible in the middle of the week. CBS2’s John Elliott reported the storm expected Wednesday could drop big totals on the area, but may not be difficult to manage due to the relative warmth of the ground and temperatures in the 30s. However, Elliott said any heavy, wet snow could spell trouble for tree limbs and power lines.