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PSEG Long Island

Police and PSEGLI have been trying to catch scammers pretending to be from the utility company for several years, but the con is still on the rise. Stock photo

Phone scammers have used a number of tactics to get unassuming people to hand over their money, but one con has police and a Long Island utility company especially concerned.

Some scammers have been claiming they are employees of a utility company like PSEG Long Island, and then tell a person their bill is in arrears. They threaten to turn off heat or electricity if they do not receive hundreds or even thousands of dollars, often in the form of a gift card instead of the normal check or direct deposit.

“The elderly might not say anything because they may be embarrassed.”

— Stuart Cameron

Such is what happened to Setauket resident Candy Maeder, who said she was called March 5 by a person claiming to be from the utility company. The man on the phone said Maeder was late on her bills and her service would be shut off in a matter of hours if she didn’t give them hundreds of dollars in cash. She said they would not even take a debit card over the phone.

“I fought with them back and forth,” the Setauket resident said. “At first, I really believed it was them.”

After hanging up the phone, and after talking with her boyfriend and also her electrician, she came to the conclusion it had been a scam. 

That day, she called PSEGLI and the police, but Maeder’s experience is all too common in the modern day — almost textbook with what others have experienced. Suffolk County police has records of the number of reports of phone scams received over the past several years. Records show the frequency of the PSEGLI scam has increased. In 2018, there were 56 reported cases of the scam throughout Suffolk. In 2019, police received 76 reports of scammers claiming they were PSEGLI, where people did not give them money. An additional 55 actually resulted in the scammers stealing money from victims for a total of 131. In January and February of this year, police have received reports of 30 scams so far.

Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron said scammers are always coming up with novel frauds, but the PSEGLI scam has been on the rise. Like many scams, it particularly targets the most vulnerable residents, such as the elderly, who particularly can’t afford to be out several thousand dollars as some scammers demand.

“The elderly might not say anything because they may be embarrassed,” he said. “Scammers play on that type of fear and embarrassment to exploit money from those residents who are probably in the worst position to lose money like this.” 

New Jersey-based PSEG has been tracking this scam even before taking over the electric infrastructure portion of LIPA’s business from National Grid in 2014. Robert Vessichelli, the senior security investigator for PSEGLI, said the actual number of people falling for the scam has decreased over the years. In 2019 the utility company received notice of 6,574 scams for the whole of Long Island, where 305 of those fell victim to the scammers. The con artists often ask for as little as a few hundred dollars and up to several thousand. 

“The best way to combat these scams is by educating the public,” Vessichelli said. “When I learn people haven’t heard of the scam, it kind of concerns us.”

Tracking these individuals is difficult, even when scammers are calling locally. While the police chief said they have made some arrests, the suspects often do a process to their phone numbers called “spoofing,” making their caller ID on answering machines appear as a completely separate number, even making it out to look like it was coming from PSEGLI or even police.

The Long Island utility company has been participating in a national campaign to promote awareness of phone scams. Utilities United Against Scams, a U.S. and Canadian consortium of utility companies, ran the campaign during National Consumer Protection Week March 1-7 to promote scam awareness. Vessichelli said the consortium uses its influence to block the numbers of callers they confirm are from scammers, but of course the perpetrators will simply move on to use a different phone number. Sometimes, these calls come from people outside the U.S. 

The scam comes in multiple forms. While often it’s a person on the phone proclaiming a bill is in arrears, con artists also conduct phishing schemes by telling people they are owed money from overpayment and ask for bank account information. They may also call saying they need a deposit for a new meter, though PSEGLI does not charge a deposit for such a thing.

“At first, I really believed it was them.”

— Candy Maeder

One of the more frightening tactics is when charlatans show up in person at people’s houses claiming they are utility employees. When such people come to the door, Vessichelli said its best to call PSEGLI to confirm those are legitimate employees. The security expert suggested if they show ID, ask to take a picture for you to send to the utility to confirm identities.

Warning signs are often readily apparent. If a resident receives a cold call without any prior email or snail mail notifications, that’s usually a bad sign. Another sure sign is if they ask for any nontraditional form of payment, such as asking you to buy gift cards which the person then asks for those to be scratched off, or a payment of cash by drop off or in person. 

These are points often seen across all sorts of scams, so police’s general advice is to not relay any kind of personal information, such as your name or the name of family members or where you live. Scammers often take private information off social media such as Facebook, so if one starts hearing familiar names, don’t take it as a sign they are who they say they are. 

PSEGLI workers are required to wear photo IDs, so in meeting one of these scammers in person, a surefire sign is if they cannot produce such an identification. 

Cameron said if one suspects a caller might be a scam, then one should hang up, get the number where called from and phone PSEGLI at 800-490-0025 or the police at 631-852-2677. For more information, visit www.psegliny.com/scam and www.utilitiesunited.org.

Girl Scout Hailey Van Cott works on the prey pen at Sweetbriar Nature Center. Photo from Hailey Van Cott

When choosing a project for her Gold Award, one Stony Brook Girl Scout drew on her love for animals.

Hailey Van Cott, a junior at Ward Melville High School and a Girl Scout since kindergarten, recently began repairing the prey pen within the flight aviary at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown as part of her Gold Award project. A visitor to the center for years, she knew the location was the right choice.

“I really love what Sweetbriar stands for and I knew I wanted to help them out for my Gold Award,” she said.

To help with her project, PSEG Long Island awarded the Girl Scout $200. She said she plans to use the money to put down Astroturf around the sides of the prey enclosure, which helps the birds grip as it’s a softer texture than a piece of wood and in turn prevents foot problems.

PSEG representatives said the project is in line with their goal to relocate osprey and other raptor nests from electrical facilities to safe nesting locations.

“I really love what Sweetbriar stands for and I knew I wanted to help them out for my Gold Award.”

– Hailey Van Cott

“We want to help ensure these wonderful birds continue to return to the area year after year while, at the same time, protecting the reliability of the energy grid,” said John O’Connell, PSEG Long Island’s vice president of transmission and distribution. “Hailey’s project aligns with our commitment to protecting the local raptor population.”

Her mother, Deb, said she wasn’t surprised when her daughter chose to help out at Sweetbriar.

“She’s always liked to help animals,” the mother said. “She’s definitely a big animal person. She’s also always liked to do community service.”

Her mother said with Girl Scout Troop 2867, her daughter has helped Smithtown Animal Shelter by making dog toys and conducting supply drives for them. Outside of Girl Scouts, Van Cott has made memory wire bracelets and sold them at her father’s office and donated the money to Save-A-Pet Animal Shelter in Port Jeff Station.

Isabel Fernandes, a wildlife care coordinator at Sweetbriar, said Van Cott has done an amazing job repairing the prey bin, and Sweetbriar is always appreciative for the help they get from Scouts.

“We are a small staff so it’s important that we have people who can help us and get projects and other things done here,” Fernandes said.

The coordinator explained that the pen is enclosed in the 80-foot flight conditioning enclosure aviary, which is used for wildlife rehabilitation to help injured birds fly again and exercise their muscles before they can be released. The center prey pen ensures the birds maintain their hunting skills.

Fernandes said there is currently a great horned owl in the aviary that was removed when Van Cott was working on the enclosure, as it’s important to keep human contact as limited as possible — something she has now learned through experience.

“The more interaction with humans they have, the more adjusted they will become,” the Girl Scout said. “They need to learn how to capture the prey themselves and how to survive on their own.”

As part of her Gold Award project, in addition to working with her family on the enclosure, she will talk to younger Girl Scouts about the project, Van Cott said, as well as educate them about the importance of animal rehabilitation and how birds of prey control the rodent population.

“Every animal has its part in the ecosystem,” she said. “I’ve always loved big birds. I’ve always loved seeing them out in the wild just looking up and seeing a hawk every now and then.”

Last week, Long Island was slammed and hit by an unexpected fall nor’easter which brought in heavy rains and gusting winds that exceeded 50 mph. 

The powerful winds from the storm caused downed power wires and felled large trees and branches. According to the National Weather Service, parts of Long Island dealt with moderate coastal flooding and about 2-3 inches of rain.   

More than 73,000 PSEG Long Island customers lost power during the storm. Within 48 hours, PSEG restored service to nearly 100 percent of customers affected by the storm on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 16-17, according to PSEG media relations. The rest were restored by that Friday. 

By the end of the nor’easter, crews had removed a total of 1,206 trees and large branches downed by the storm.

In Port Jefferson Harbor a sailing sloop named Grand Prix slipped her moorings and drifted aground in front of Harborfront Park, according to local photographer Gerard Romano who took a photo featured on the cover of this week’s paper. Another sailing vessel called the Summer Place washed ashore in Mount Sinai Harbor.

The Town of Brookhaven Highway Department responded to nearly 250 calls during the 24-hour storm. 

“We worked directly with PSEG as they dispatched their crews to areas where trees had fallen on wires so we could safely remove the debris after the power lines were de-energized,” town Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro (R) said in a statement. “Crews worked throughout the night to clear the roadways swiftly and efficiently.”

 

One of Centerport's two mated American Bald eagles. Photo by Bruce Adams

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Two of Centerport’s biggest celebrities are safer thanks to quick action taken to protect these majestic winged beauties, much to the delight of their paparazzi.

PSEG Long Island announced in honor of the nation’s birthday, the 4th of July, it had answered the calls of Centerport residents asking the company to help protect a nesting pair of American bald eagles and their two eaglets from dangers posed by two nearby electrical poles. During the last week of June, PSEG crews wrapped bright orange insulation around the electrical wires and the transformers on top of two poles on Centershore Road near the intersection of Route 25A, according to Dan Wickstrom, a manager for PSEG.

PSEG Long Island has installed orange insulation on two poles closest to the eagles’ Centerport nest. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“We were so concerned when we found the eaglets were landing on the wires,” Bruce Adams, of Northport, said. “As you all know, when linesmen are up on wires they are exposed to tremendous danger and we did not want that danger to impact the birds.”

Adams is one of the thousands of local residents and bird watchers who have flocked to Centerport hoping to catch a glimpse of The Commodore and Mrs. Vanderbilt, as the mated pair of eagles is affectionately nicknamed. The names were chosen by a growing number of birdwatchers on the Facebook group “Bald Eagles of Centerport, NY,” which has more than 8,000 followers, some who give updates on the eaglets’ progress and photographers share their best images and videos.

“This is so phenomenal,” Adams said. “The presence of these birds has made birders out of those us who were not birders a year ago.”

The avid photographer said he first noticed the eagles’ arrival in November 2017 as they began constructing a nest in close proximity to Chalet Inn & Suites in Centerport. Shortly thereafter, two eggs appeared in the nest and a pair of fledglings hatched in April.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer, Bruce Adams, Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and Dan Wickstrom, of PSEG Long Island, show off eagle pins given to them by Adams to mark the occasion. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

As the young birds began to fly, Adams said he and other birdwatchers were alarmed to see the eaglets landing and perching on two power poles with transformers close to the nest. He said he reached out to Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) for help.

“Centerport is already a picturesque place and the presence of these birds only adds to its beauty,” Spencer said. “I was happy to play a role in the community effort to protect the eaglets that thousands of residents have come to treasure.”

Spencer said he contacted PSEG and received an affirmative response within hours that they were willing to take action to protect the birds.

“A part of our mission is to be engaged in the community and be good stewards of the environment,” Wickstrom said. “We were happy to get involved and take some corrective action to make things safer.”

Wickstrom said the animal protective caps should stay in place and last through the summer as the eaglets continue to grow and learn to fly. The utility company is looking to install similar protective features on six additional poles in the Centerport area in the coming weeks, according to Wickstrom.

As the calendar creeps into March, the North Shore of Long Island is not quite experiencing spring weather just yet. The entire East Coast of the United States was battered by Winter Storm Riley, which arrived during the morning hours March 2, with a combination of high winds, rapid rainfall and shear duration causing severe flooding and power outages locally in addition to several casualties elsewhere.

The nor’easter, or a storm along the East Coast of North America with winds over the coastal area blowing from the northeast, according to the National Weather Service, left more than 128,000 PSEG Long Island customers without power over the weekend. As of 8:30 p.m. March 4, the utility said more than 99 percent of its affected customers had power restored.

“Nor’easters are always a challenge and something that is a concern for us here, particularly when it comes to issues like power outages, flooding and coastal erosion,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said during the afternoon March 2 while providing an update to residents about the storm. People worry about interruptions in the supply of drugs from online pharmacies. “This storm in particular is a challenge for a couple of reasons. You are combining here high winds and a significant amount of rainfall. When you have those two things happening at the same time you are creating an environment for power outages, downed power lines, downed trees blocking roadways. Those are all the things we are monitoring, watching out for.”

Bellone said he had been in touch with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) office, and the state had offered to provide Suffolk with any additional equipment or personnel it required to effectively deal with Riley.

Much of Suffolk County experienced between 2 ½ and four inches of rainfall during the storm, according to the National Weather Service. Wind gusts in Suffolk reached as high as 78 mph in Middle Island, 51 mph in East Northport and 43 in Miller Place.

Port Jefferson Village, or Drowned Meadow as it was originally called in past centuries, endured substantial flooding. One Facebook poster joked Main Street in Port Jeff resembled Venice, Italy.

“We have flooding downtown folks and are now at high tide,” the village posted on its official Facebook page at about 11 a.m. March 2, adding several village streets had to be closed due to flooding. “We will keep you posted. Stay safe!”

There will be no rest for the weary hoping the passing of Riley would signal a shift toward spring weather, as the National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for much of the region March 5 calling for a winter storm that could bring several inches of snow beginning late March 6 into March 7.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). File photo

New York state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) wants to make it more difficult for LIPA to increase rates for its customers.

LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) introduced the Long Island Power Authority Rate Reform Act in January, a bill drafted to require the not-for-profit public utility’s board of trustees to “protect the economic interests of its ratepayers and the service area,” in addition to the interests of the utility company when considering a rate increase proposal, according to a joint press release from the lawmakers. The bill would also prevent LIPA from increasing rates to offset revenue losses associated with energy conservation efforts, like the installation of energy-efficient appliances and lightbulbs. If passed, it would be mandated the board hold public hearings within each county overseen by LIPA prior to finalizing rate plans.

Currently, LIPA’s board is required to consider three criteria when a rate increase is proposed by the State Department of Public Service: sound fiscal operating practices, existing contractual obligations and safe and adequate service, according to the press release.

“While we have been working to keep Long Island affordable by implementing measures like the 2 percent property tax cap, LIPA approved the largest rate increase in its history,” LaValle said in a statement, citing a three-year rate increase approved by the board in 2015. “This measure will enable more community input by mandating a public hearing when considering rate changes. In addition, this legislation would provide the trustees with the tools necessary to reject rate increases that would cause additional financial burdens on Long Islanders.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant each voiced support for LaValle’s bill.

“The record amount of investment in reliability, customer service and clean energy all come at a time when electric rates have remained roughly flat for decade,” LIPA Trustee Tom McAteer said in a statement through spokesman Sid Nathan. “Customer satisfaction is significantly higher and customers see PSEG Long Island crews tree-trimming and storm-hardening the electric grid throughout the year. Those are the facts. Not opinion. The Reform Act is working for our customers.”

The LIPA Reform Act was enacted in 2013 to revamp the utility’s operations, including empowering the board to decide on proposed rate increases. PSEG Long Island — which operates LIPA’s distribution systems — Media Relations Specialist Elizabeth Flagler said in a statement the company is reviewing the legislation and will be monitoring its status.

The proposed legislation comes as municipalities continue settlement discussions pertaining to lawsuits filed by Port Jeff Village and Port Jefferson School District — both in LaValle’s home district — in addition to the Town of Huntington and Northport-East Northport School District against LIPA to prevent the utility’s challenges to property value assessments at the Port Jeff and Northport plants. The result of the lawsuits could have a dramatic impact on Port Jeff Village and its school district, as both entities receive substantial property tax revenue as a host community of a LIPA power plant.

The Port Jeff plant is currently used about 11 percent of the time, during periods of peak energy generation demand, an argument LIPA has used against the village’s public pleas to repower its plant and give LIPA more bang for its tax-assessment buck. A 2017 LIPA study predicted by 2030 the Port Jeff plant might only be needed about 6 percent of the year, thanks in part to the emergence energy efficient household appliances. In August 2016 New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) mandated that 50 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, by 2030.

Bruce Blower, a spokesman for LaValle, did not respond to an email asking if the proposed legislation was drafted with the lawsuits in mind, or if a settlement was imminent. Both the senate and assembly versions of the bill are in committee and would require passage by both houses and a signature from Cuomo prior to becoming law.

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Extreme low temperatures caused enough demand to require use of the Port Jefferson Power Station. File photo by Erika Karp

In Port Jefferson, the stacks are impossible to miss. They stick up in the sky, visible from Setauket and Port Jefferson Station when not in use. However, when electricity demand spikes, the billowing, white steam coming from the red-and-white, candy-striped stacks of the Port Jefferson Power Station is a sight to behold.

With the emergence of energy-efficient appliances and a general societal shift toward being “green conscious,” the power station is only activated in times of peak electricity demand these days, like when temperatures and wind chills start flirting with zero. From late December into early January, the New York office of the National Weather Service reported that for 13 straight days, ending Jan. 9, the maximum temperature at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip failed to exceed 32 F. It was the second longest period of below-freezing temperatures reported at the airport since 1963.

As a result of an Island-wide rush to crank up thermostats everyday from Dec. 27 through Jan. 10, the steam-powered electrical generation station was ready to go, serving as an addendum to the Island’s regularly used energy production. In 2017, the Port Jeff plant was operated for 1,698 hours through November, with an additional 260 hours of run time needed in December, according to Sid Nathan, director of public information for the Long Island Power Authority, which oversees operation of the station.

When running, its two steam units produce the white clouds or water vapor, which is a byproduct of burning oil or gas. As the vapor exits the stacks, contact with colder air causes condensation of the water vapor, producing the cloudlike white color. The two steam units ran for 1,958 hours in 2017, the equivalent of running for 41 days, or 11 percent of the year, Nathan said. The power station has the ability to generate about 400 megawatts of power.

The historic stretch of cold temperatures definitely generated an unusually high energy demand at the station, according to Nathan.

“Generally, on a typical 35 degree day, PSEG Long Island would not expect to dispatch the Port Jefferson plant,” he said.

For those concerned about the white steam yielded by the energy generation process, Nathan said the station is not producing more or different steam than normal and that the byproduct is more visible at extremely low ambient temperatures.

“There is no cause for concern,” Nathan said.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said the white smoke is mostly steam that could potentially contain particulates other than steam, and he reiterated residents shouldn’t be overly concerned. Although Englebright did say it would be “prudent to try to separate yourself from the atmospherics of the plant.”

As a North Shore resident and chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, Englebright said he was thankful the plant was ready to roll when needed most.

“Yes, during most of the year they are not in use,” Englebright said, of the stacks. “But when we really need it, it’s there. And we really needed it just in this cold spell and it went into high operation. Thank God it was there.”

Miler Place Girl Scout Troop 227 members make a presentation to the board of education about energy efficiency. Photo by Kevin Redding

Miller Place High School has the potential to save large sums of money and energy this year thanks to the environmental efforts of a group of middle school Girl Scouts.

Sixth- and seventh-grade members of Cadette Girl Scout Troop 227 urged the board of education during the Sept. 27 meeting to consider replacing the 120 fluorescent lights in the high school cafeteria with more energy-efficient LED lights. This installation could save the district approximately $1,044 in the cafeteria alone over the course of the 180-day school year, the Girl Scouts said.

“Switching to LED lights would allow the district to focus that money on education,” 11-year-old Lilah Lindemann said.

Analynn Bisiani, a sixth-grader, informed board members 180-degree LED lights release significantly less heat energy than tube-shaped, 360-degree fluorescent lights, making them safer.

“They do not contain dangerous chemicals and will project light only down instead of 360 degrees,” Analynn said. “A lot of energy is wasted when light is projected upwards.”

Girl Scout Lindsey Galligan speaks at the Miller Place board of education meeting about the importance of energy efficiency and the ways in which the Girl Scouts project could help the district. Photo by Kevin Redding

The troop’s presentation was based on an energy audit of the high school cafeteria the girls conducted in May with the help of a PSEG Long Island representative as part of their Girl Scout Journey project — a long-term initiative to find a solution to a local environmental problem.

One of the requirements for the project was to focus on conserving energy, so troop leaders and members decided to conduct an audit of a public building, specifically the high school cafeteria, where the group holds its meetings twice a month.

With the help of Scout mom Kim Soreil, a PSEG Long Island manager of customer operations, the girls studied different forms of energy, made circuit cards and calculated the energy savings of switching to LED lights by counting all 120 lights in the cafeteria. The girls figured out
approximately 17.5 cents per kilowatt hour could be saved, which, assuming a 14-hour school day with extracurricular activities, equates to $5.88 in savings per day and $1,044 a year.

“They picked up on everything very quickly and just took off with it,” Soreil said of the troop’s excitement about the project. The girls, including Soreil’s daughter Lauren, also learned about phantom energy and the benefits of unplugging electrical appliances even after they’ve been turned off.

“They were peering through windows to try and see if lights were left on in the offices in the back and trying to turn off the lights on the vending machines so the school could conserve
energy,” she said.

During the presentation, Girl Scout Sarah DiPersio offered the board another environmentally-based solution in the cafeteria.

“Although it is not an electrical energy savings, we also noticed there is a traditional water fountain in the cafeteria, instead of a bottle refill fountain,” Sarah said.

Troop co-leader Candace Lindemann, who guides the girls alongside Morgan Caufield, said while she was impressed by the research and work her Scouts took part in, she wasn’t too surprised.

“We can definitely learn to use energy more efficiently because that’s one of the only ways we’re going to be able to continue living well on Earth.”

— Lilah Lindemann

“We have a very environmentally concerned and diligent group of girls,” Lindemann said, noting their other environment-based initiatives include beach cleanups and water health studies. “I think growing up near the beach definitely encourages an interest in the health of the environment for them.”

Her daughter Lilah said she has been passionate about the environment for a long time and hopes to be an engineer one day.

“We can definitely learn to use energy more efficiently because that’s one of the only ways we’re going to be able to continue living well on Earth,” the 11-year-old said. “And helping the environment and the community is what the Girl Scouts are about.”

Girl Scout Lindsey Galligan said she hopes by saving money through this proposal, the school district could afford to provide more art programs.

At the end of the board of education meeting, Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano presented each Scout with a certificate and thanked them for their presentation.

“That was very comprehensive,” Cartisano said. “We’re very grateful you did this and we’ll certainly be taking your recommendations and findings into consideration.”

The school district is currently in the process of bringing more energy efficiency to its buildings by installing solar panels on top of its high school and Andrew Muller Primary School.

Members of Cadette Girl Scout Troop 227 that participated in the audit are Sara Bally, Analynn Bisiani, Molly Caufield, Sarah DiPersio, Mary Cait Duffy, Lindsey Galligan, Lilah Lindemann, Maris Lynch, Ceili McNicholas, Madelyn Miller, and Lauren Soreil.

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital Director of Engineering, Design and Construction Kevin Koubek monitors the hospital’s electricity generation. Photo by Alex Petroski

A Port Jefferson-area hospital is setting trends in reducing its environmental impact. A number of new initiatives at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital have turned the facility into an energy efficiency machine, but the hospital’s director of engineering, design and construction said they’re not done trying to improve.

“I would say Mather is one of the most progressive hospitals on the Island in terms of green energy renewable technology and reducing carbon footprint,” Brian Hassan, PSEG Long Island lead account manager for health care, said in a phone interview. He added if other hospitals followed Mather’s lead it would be beneficial to reducing substantial carbon footprint that can be left by facilities that consume large amounts of energy. The glowing assessment can be attributed in large part to the efforts of Kevin Koubek, the engineering director at Mather who is constantly working to improve the hospital’s efficiency.

“I think we’ve shown we’re trying to do everything physically and humanly possible to reduce our demand on the grid,” Koubek said in an interview. Between air conditioning and heating, heavy-duty medical equipment, elevators, kitchen equipment, lighting, gift shops, coffee shops and various waiting rooms, the amount of power required to run a hospital is obviously substantial. Koubek said the hospital is always looking for ways to reduce energy requirements.

“Trying to offset some of this electrical demand is huge, and that’s one of the reasons we have tried to identify where we can minimize our loads,” he said.

Mather is the first Long Island hospital to install a thermal ice storage system to help with cooling the hospital during warmer months. It was installed and became operational earlier in 2017. The system serves to shift a portion of the hospital’s peak electrical load from daytime to nighttime, when electricity is more plentiful, less expensive and generated more efficiently by creating ice using larger air conditioning equipment during off-peak hours, then storing ice in 24 tanks that are used with pumps to generate cool air during the day.

“The day-to-day benefits would be that we’re not turning on this large machine, we’re pulling off the electric grid,” Koubek said.

In the past, before the hospital focused on energy efficiency initiatives, Koubek said much like homes in the summertime, the hospital’s cooling systems had a hard time meeting demand.

“We have to recognize [we] do have patients that for whatever reason, they’re here,” he said. “Their comfort is paramount.”

The chiller was approximately $2 million, though the hospital is expecting a rebate check from PSEG Long Island to cover half the cost.

Mather was also the first Long Island hospital to install solar panels. A 50-kilowatt photovoltaic ground-mounted solar panel was installed in the rear of the parking lot in 2011, and Koubek said the hospital has considered adding more.

“[Hospital administration] would love to do that, it’s just very expensive,” he said.

Koubek added the hospital is also in the process of replacing about 300 standard lighting fixtures of the roughly 3,000 at Mather with LED ones. Standard fixtures require about 180 watts of power while LEDs require about 30 watts.

“That’s the one thing that is sort of flying under the radar, but is making a huge impact on us is the fact that we’re on a track to replace every lighting fixture in the hospital and go to 100 percent LED,” Koubek said.

The hospital is also using lower cost hydropower, or electricity created by utilizing moving water, to reduce its energy costs by $2.5 million through the ReCharge NY award from the New York Power Authority. ReCharge NY is a program designed to retain and create jobs through allocations of low-cost power, half of which is made up of hydropower.

Koubek seemed to embrace the idea that Mather is setting trends for other hospitals in increased efficiency.

“I’d have to say we’re probably one of the leading hospitals on the Island, if not in the state,” he said.

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Road work will begin in Port Jefferson and will continue for the next four months as PSEG will strengthen the area’s electrical grid. File photo by Kevin Redding

An arm of the federal government and a Long Island utility are working to ensure North Shore residents who lost power in their homes for weeks in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 won’t go through that again.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is working with PSEG Long Island as part of its Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program to fortify electrical infrastructure in Port Jefferson Village and other areas in Brookhaven Town in the hopes of avoiding the widespread and lengthy outages associated with the 2012 storm. The project entails replacing existing wiring with more weather-resistant wire, installing new and more durable poles in several locations and installing or replacing equipment to help reduce the number of customers affected by an outage, according to PSEG.

“By putting in the storm-hardened equipment, the stronger wires, and the more weather-resistant poles, it will help to reduce the number of customers affected during a storm,” said Elizabeth Flagler, PSEG Long Island’s media relations specialist. “So when we get the high winds, the equipment will hold up better.”

The project’s $729 million in funds was secured in 2014 through an agreement between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program, which helps communities implement hazard mitigation measures following a major disaster declaration. PSEG licensed and approved contractors will be doing the work for approximately the next four months in areas along Old Post Road, Hulse Road, Sheep Pasture Road, Main Street, Stony Hill Road and Belle Terre Road in Port Jefferson.

Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant is glad to see improvements being done to help residents in the event of another major storm.

“Working on these lines and hardening the grid I think is something that should be done constantly,” Garant said during a phone interview. She added she knew of people who live in the village that were without power for up to two weeks after Sandy. “In the modern day I think that’s pretty unacceptable.”

Garant also said the abundance of large and old trees on the North Shore pose another problem for electrical lines when wind gusts get powerful.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) stressed the importance of being ready for another disaster.

“The reliability of our electrical infrastructure is paramount,” she said in an email through Legislative Aide Jennifer Martin. “Communities, including residential customers and businesses must be able to depend on uninterrupted service. In the last few years we have seen many unprecedented extreme weather events and these events are expected to continue. As such, upgrades under the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program will be critically important to my district, much of which is on the North Shore, and to other districts throughout Long Island.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) took over his post a month after Hurricane Sandy hit. He said that in his first few weeks in office he was overwhelmed trying to recover from all of the damage it caused.

“All poles and wires were down, water was about knee high throughout all the streets — if not higher — and obviously, you want to be able to withstand the next storm,” he said.

Romaine did, however, suggest PSEG bury wires to further minimize damage.

“Costs for burying wires is about the same that you would pay to recover from a series of storms in a 30-year period,” he said. “It’s more costly in the short run, but in the long run there’s no difference, and you will be much better protected by buried wires.”

PSEG representatives say that they anticipate minor traffic interruptions, as well as some localized, short-duration power outages related to the project. The crews will generally work Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with limited evening and Sunday work.

Kevin Redding contributed reporting.