BRONXVILLE, N.Y. – Mayor Mary Marvin writes a weekly column. It is being reprinted by The Bronxville Daily Voice.
This past week Village Department Heads and I met with Con Edison representatives for the third time in an effort to improve service/response time in Bronxville in the aftermath of experiences during Hurricane Sandy.
We have partnered with Con Edison to share ideas in a collegial way that has proven productive.
To understand power outages, familiarity with our unique grid system is essential. As background, the Village is powered from three feeders; one in Tuckahoe, one in Mount Vernon near Village Hall and one in Yonkers just over the West Side border. During Hurricane Sandy, in order to “power” the Village much of the electrical work took place outside the Village boundaries. This unique configuration of service caused frustration and confusion for our government and residents alike as we seemed to see crew teams everywhere but Bronxville. Electricity is then sent from the feeders into Village loops comprising whole neighborhoods. During Hurricane Sandy, when a feeder went down almost half the Village immediately lost power, and if a pole fell, an entire loop would go down.
Proactively, Con Edison has changed power configurations so as to avoid the above scenarios. The new system adds switches and fuses to loops allowing power outages to be segmented into much smaller sections. Now if a tree should fall in one yard, only the adjacent homes would lose power, not the entire neighborhood. In a Village such as ours, where falling trees are commonplace even in routine storms, the benefit will be enormous. No matter how localized the outage, Con Edison advised us that homeowners still must call in to the 1-800-75-CONED number and report it because the switches/fuses must be reset manually by dispatching a truck.
Based on resident feedback and the experience of Village Hall staffers during Hurricane Sandy, the following are some of the suggestions we made to Con Edison going forward:
Inaccurate information is worse than no information at all. The robo-calls during Hurricane Sandy with estimated power resumption times proved largely inaccurate and led people to return home or re-fill refrigerators only to have power remain out for days.
The computer data maps of outage areas must sync with real time conditions. Many residents called in outages only to then access a computer which erroneously showed their home having power on the Con Edison map.
Con Edison cars, trucks and staffers’ vests should be clearly marked as to their function. Residents were frustrated when they saw Con Edison crews not restoring power, when in fact their assignment was to either guard or de-energize live wires only. Clearly delineating the job at hand would stem the confusion. A simple truck marking or vest lettering would go a long way for clarity of duties, and keep questions at a minimum.
The Con Edison liaisons for every community should have continuity and permanent assignments when emergencies occur. Liaisons with a knowledge of Village streets and vital services such as hospitals and schools are critical to truck dispatching and assessing the location of needs when assigning priorities. In storms prior to Hurricane Sandy, Con Edison staffers were completely confused when dispatching trucks to the Village and ended up sending them to the Yonkers/Bronxville P.O.
Per regulations, out-of-town crews cannot work on live wires due to their unfamiliarity with the local systems. Con Edison needs to alert municipalities immediately when crews need to temporarily cut power to make repairs for others on the same grid. As an example, during Hurricane Sandy, Parkway Road residents finally received power only to have it go out hours later. We were not notified that it was a temporary “de power” in order to help other residents near Sarah Lawrence, so we could not give our residents any accurate information as to power resumption.
I am extremely confident that Con Edison is making genuine and productive efforts to improve the accuracy and quality of their emergency services and they have been very receptive to our operational suggestions.
Regardless of what Con Edison services are ultimately updated, residents will still have to call their outages in on a daily basis for best service. Con Edison makes no assumptions that because your next door neighbor called in, you also do not have power
Con Edison has informed us that the cost of relocating wires underground is $7 to $10 million per lane mile, plus a street-to-home hook-up fee which is dependent on the topography of each property. Given that the Village has approximately seven lane miles, the cost is beyond what anyone is willing to undertake.
In the recent Village Hall renovations, a very powerful generator was installed so during outages, residents can always come to Village Hall for warmth or to recharge equipment. If you have any further recommendations as to improving electrical service, kindly email me at email@example.com.