LONG LAKE — More than 40 members of this community turned out to a Town Board meeting Thursday to hear what the local government is doing in response to a streak of power outages that left the town dark and freezing on some of the coldest nights of the winter so far.
They shared plans to spark action by state leaders and vented frustrations with Long Lake’s power supplier, New York State Electric and Gas.
Supervisor Clark Seaman said two NYSEG crews have been stationed in town this past week in anticipation of bad weather: one to “babysit” the Newcomb substation generator and the other to work on lines.
NYSEG spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the outage lasted so long because a 70-foot tree fell on the wires during a storm.
“The initial cause of the outage was that we lost the feed from National Grid,” Ortiz wrote in an email. “The second outage was caused by downed trees along National Grid’s right-of-way as well as downed trees in our service area that take time to clear.”
At the meeting, Seaman said the utility corridor right of way where the power lines run should be cleared of trees that pose a threat.
There has also been a problem with Frontier phones and AT&T broadband going down at the same time as the electricity, cutting off communication. That is because AT&T uses Frontier lines to bring its broadband into the area. Verizon runs off a fiber-connected tower.
Frontier has a backup generator, but two times in recent months it did not kick on when needed. Seaman said the battery had gone dead, and he has been assured it has been replaced.
Long Lake gets its power feed from National Grid through a line from Old Forge, and it has had at least six days with lost power in November alone.
Newcomb, Blue Mountain Lake and Raquette Lake are powered this way, too. Newcomb has a backup generator that runs when the main feed is interrupted, but several times in the past six months it has failed to kick on.
On Black Friday, the power was out for seven hours, Seaman said.
Residents have been calling and writing letters to NYSEG, state agencies and politicians for months now, and Seaman said he has personally been calling NYSEG for a year and a half.
Long Lakers are preparing a mass mailing campaign. Lorraine Spangler produced a list of dates and times of outages to help letter-writers.
“Calls are fine; letters get answered,” former Supervisor John Hosley said.
Seaman has talked with state Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, who said the situation was not acceptable and wrote a letter of his own to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Nov. 26.
“I have reached out numerous times to NYSEG, Frontier and the Public Service Commission about this public safety issue and all I hear are crickets!” Tedisco wrote in the letter. “How long do we take to monitor before implementing a sound and long-term solution? My fear is a death from a power outage will expedite results.”
NYSEG, based in Connecticut, was bought by Avangrid Inc. in 2015, combining several existing gas and electric companies with Iberdrola USA, a company from Spain.
“Service has gotten much worse. I hear it from constituents throughout the community,” Seaman said. “There is a NYSEG crew here in town. … Local guys that work for them. And they’re good. They’re very good. In fact, if they just let them do their job, I think we’d be much further ahead.”
Seaman said he remembered when he used to be able to call up a local crew member, tell him a street light was out, and it would get done. Now they need to find the pole numbers, sometimes in the snow, submit a work order and sometimes even have a crew come from out of the area.
“I asked a NYSEG rep to be here this evening. She declined,” Seaman said at the meeting. “Who’s surprised?”
In case of a long-term outage, Seaman said the town hall will be the meeting place for people in need of supplies, food and warmth.
Barbara Taylor, a coordinator for Hamilton County emergency preparedness, said she is working to create a countywide vulnerable persons registry through the Office for the Aging.
Forms to be put on the list will be delivered by Meals on Wheels, in health centers, newsletters and libraries.