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Sep 27, 2016 1:24 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Dispute Over Buried Power Lines Has Been Settled

Southampton Town Board   JEN NEWMAN
Sep 27, 2016 4:43 PM

A longstanding dispute over money between Southampton Town and the Long Island Power Authority has been resolved.

After residents complained that new transmission lines would be an eyesore and spoil some of the town’s broadest vistas, power lines were buried in 2008 along a four-mile stretch that follows Head of Pond Road and Scuttlehole Road between Sag Harbor and Southampton.

Since it cost about $11.1 million more to bury the lines than it would have to hang them from poles, the town and LIPA agreed to charge a “visual benefit assessment” to approximately 20,000 households deemed to benefit from burying the lines. According to Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, approximately $2.30 per month, per household, was to be recovered over a 20-year period. The town agreed to assume responsibility for any assessments left unpaid.

In 2013, LIPA sued the town to recover more than $200,000 in what it said were unpaid benefit assessment charges. They have continued to accrue and now stand at more than $470,000.

Although some 2,800 residents still owed money, most were never billed, according to Mr. Schneiderman, because LIPA billed the town directly for certain late fees and other charges instead of attempting to obtain the money from customers first.

Under a settlement reached on September 15, the town will no longer be held accountable for the unpaid charges, and LIPA’s customers outside the designated area will not face any additional charges for the project.

The supervisor said LIPA will forgive $150,000 in accumulated interest charges and amend its billing process to collect the rest of the unpaid charges directly from the customers in the assessment area. However, he was quick to note that the residents will not see an increase in their electric bills, because the 20-year charging period was scheduled to end six months early but now will end only two months early instead. So the existing monthly charge will not change.

“At the end of the day, we came up with a solution that would be good for the town across the board,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “This was going to end early anyway—it still will end early, but not as early as before.”

According to a press release from the town, the settlement has been signed but still must be approved by the court, and the necessary tariff changes must be approved by the LIPA board. Tom Falcone, LIPA’s CEO, said in a press release that LIPA is pleased with the outcome of the settlement.

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