Outages frustrate people in central Adirondacks

NEWCOMB — This town, which houses a New York State Electric and Gas substation servicing the area just south of the High Peaks Wilderness, has experienced two power outages in the past month, and the town supervisor says the blackouts have shed light on bureaucratic problems.

Both outages were remedied quickly and professionally by NYSEG, according to Newcomb town Supervisor Robin DeLoria, but he said the substation’s new generator did not kick on during one of the outages and added that the bureaucracy of NYSEG’s new parent company is annoying.

An outage on Saturday was caused by trouble on the line at the deerland switch between the Harris Lake substation in Newcomb and the town of Long Lake, according to DeLoria.

The substation also services Long Lake, Indian Lake and Blue Mountain Lake. Though the substation’s backup generator started in four minutes, DeLoria said, the break in the line kept the other three towns in the dark for hours.

“[The switch] is probably quite extensive to repair,” DeLoria said.

A Nov. 10 outage was caused by a coil problem at the substation during a snowstorm. It lasted most of the day and eliminated all four towns’ access to electricity, phones, internet and broadband. The generator did not start that time, and after line crews finished repairs at the substation, they started the generator.

The $12 million generator has had problems since it was installed three years ago, and DeLoria said the town has had to babysit this one much more than the previous generator from the 1960s. When the generator doesn’t start, he said they have to call for service from Plattsburgh, which is over an hour-and-a-half drive in good conditions

DeLoria said NYSEG did everything it could do during the last two outages, and he had no complaints about how the company handled the repairs.

However, he did say that the quality of customer service from the company has greatly decreased since the Connecticut-based company was bought by Avangrid Inc. in 2015, combining several existing gas and electric companies with Iberdrola USA, a company from Spain.

“I’ve worked in the town of Newcomb for 32 years, and prior to this outfit changing hands, they had excellent customer service,” DeLoria said. “The local crews worked with the local towns. We would help each other.”

DeLoria has been supervisor for one year, coming to the position after being the highway maintenance supervisor.

“Boy, we had a good relationship with NYSEG,” DeLoria said. “We used to be able to call the linemen and say, ‘Hey, you’ve got two streetlights out,’ and they would put it on their list. When they got free they would come over and do it. Now everything’s done with a goddamn work order. Everything goes through corporate.”

DeLoria said the town would even build short roads so NYSEG trucks could reach all their poles free of charge. That sort of mutually beneficial goodwill does not exist anymore, he said.

“It’s their doing. That’s the way corporate works now. Everything’s done through the office,” DeLoria said. “Bunch of suit and ties. I think they need to loosen the tie because it cuts off the blood flow to the brain.”

DeLoria said he has a good relationship with some people at NYSEG, including one main contact in the customer support division, but he wants the “boots on the ground” to have the freedom to make more decisions without the central office, because the service NYSEG provides is essential for Newcomb.

He said Newcomb is the “end of the line” for electricity, internet, fiber optics and telephone services. Everything comes from the west, and electrical service from National Grid stops around 12 miles east of Newcomb.

DeLoria said the generator was installed because when the power goes out in Newcomb, there is no other source. The drive from Plattsburgh is not soon enough for a town with no power, freezing temperatures and a population that is 38 percent retired.

“I can tell you right now, if it’s 30 below zero and that happens, we’re going to have people frozen,” DeLoria said.

He said the town has plans for if the generator does not work: The fire department would drive around with generators for homeowners to use one-by-one, the school would be a place to house and feed residents, and DeLoria said the town is working with the Newcomb Health Center to confidentially compile a list of people emergency personnel can check in on if they require assistance.


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