Westchester lawmakers grill Con Ed, NYSEG over power problems

Elected leaders in Westchester County on Monday questioned Consolidated Edison and New York State Electric and Gas about why the power companies took so long to restore electricity to so many customers in the county after several storms.

County Legislator Gordon Burrows, who represents Bronxville and Yonkers, asked representatives from Con Ed and NYSEG over and over again about an apparent decrease in the number of linemen on their payrolls.

The Con Ed rep didn't have information about the staffing levels for the past 15 years. But he later admitted that Con Ed drew 1,000 of the 1,200 linemen working to restore service to the thousands without power in Westchester during recent storms from mutual-aid relationships with other utility companies — some hundreds of miles away.

"I commend you guys for getting that but you're skewing the facts," Borrows said. "I want to address the immediate issue of workers in the area."

County legislators read public testimony from 2013 that described similar issues with these utility companies post-Superstorm Sandy, suggesting the problems remained unaddressed five years later.

"They were told on a call there were going to be 10 crews out," Legislator Catherine Parker said. "They actually sent the police out looking for the crews and they found one crew."

Several lawmakers promised to urge the Public Service Commission to fine the power companies as much money as possible and to use those funds to help ensure power gets restored as quickly as it should in the future.

"And you don't care because profits are going up and no one's dealing with the problems," Burrows said. "Do we have to go and break up a monopoly again? Do we have to do that?"

In three hours of questioning, those Con Ed and NYSEG representatives took a lot of notes but seemed to answer the majority of the board's questions with some variation of "We'll have to look into that." Both utilities promised internal reviews of their performances and to meet with individual municipalities in April.