MILFORD - The April 2nd meeting of Milford Borough Council drew the attendance of Pike County Light and Power (PCLP) representatives after the previous month’s meeting revealed feelings from council and residents of a subpar performance in the dealing with the response to the March storms by the local utility company.
General Manager, Steven Grandinali and Mike German, CEO Corning Natural Gas Holding Company were both present while Grandinali held the floor.
He recalled the storm starting on a Friday (March 2) and advised that the first power outages were reported on Saturday. Crews had already been contacted and began working on Friday.
Help from O & R
Damage assessment personnel and tree trimmers/removers were the first out. Orange and Rockland backup construction crews were deployed on Saturday.
The Orange and Rockland personnel were working under contract that had been extended through April 2018 if needed. A perspective contract with another company to perform service work fell through but a successful contract with Harlan has provided three workers. The storm cancelled the initial meeting planned to get everyone up to speed and the workers got right to work.
An additional crew from Metro Tech was also contracted to help. Grandinali stated that by 10:45 Saturday night 95% of the borough had power back. The company then started chipping away at the outlying areas were most of the damage was with multiple wires and poles (24-25) down and 22 transformers that needed replacement, along with all the large trees that fell bringing the wires with them.
PCLP employs three customer service people as well as a planner and their contract electrical workers are union affiliated. The damage assessment personnel are highly trained but non-union. At the height of the response PCLP had 55 people working to restore power.
David Wineberg was curious about “the grid” and his understanding that with a grid there should be additional ways to get power when one area of the grid fails.
Grandinali stated they are looking into, “back feeding” the system with power from either PPL or MetEd.
Mike German stated, “the quickest way to get a reliable system in here is to 1) trim the trees and 2) pole inspections”. Both men indicated that this maintenance will be a priority. Grandinali stated, “We’re interested in maintaining the system. We’re also going to do what is necessary to keep power on as best as possible.”
German stated, “I couldn’t see us doing much better in restoration and that whole process, but I think there is an issue that has been raised on multiple occasions relative to communications.”
He went on saying “the damage was worse in this storm than in Sandy. During Sandy, if you go check the records, the outage lasted 12 days. We restored quicker where more damage occurred. We brought in many more people than they brought in. I thought they were better managed, and that was Steve (Grandinali), he deserves the credit for that. They were better managed than typically a large utility.”
Jon Kameen pressed the electric officials to offer some financial relief for the customers who lost food from the outage as Orange and Rockland was offering their customers due to their poor communication during the storm related power outage; however, Grandinali stated that while that may be Orange and Rockland’s philosophy, the changing conditions during the outing could not be predicted and publicly released plans had to be updated on the fly as conditions changed.
Council Vice President Meagan Kameen had a followup question for Grandinali concerning the phone system at the power company’s office and not being able to get through. Grandinali stated that they use a call center and when the office line gets overloaded, calls are transferred to the call center. He acknowledged that there was a problem and it was one of the “lessons learned” from the storm.
Milford Borough Council President Tarquinio asked for a meeting with PCLP executives to keep the lines of communication open and strive to improve response in the future. Grandinali agreed and also stated that he will be meeting with the other municipalities served by the utility as well.