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LIPA Communication Leaves Many in the Dark

Elected officials and news outlets have been spreading the word about recovery efforts, but some say they want to hear it directly from LIPA.

So far, the only information Colette Adamo Grosso said she received from the Long Island Power Authority was a recorded phone message two days before the hurricane hit last week, letting her know she could be without power for seven to 10 days.

"My best intel has come from Facebook news feed from neighbors, and community groups. Next from elected officials, who are obviously working hard to get help to all in need and communicate the information," she said in a message to Miller Place-Rocky Point Patch via Facebook. "Last is LIPA."

Grosso is not alone. While elected officials like State Sen. Ken LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, and Suffolk Legis. Kara Hahn, D-Port Jefferson, have been making frequent updates on the outage situation via social media and email following municipal conference calls with LIPA, some locals say the utility company has left them in the dark in more ways than one.

"I get updates from news, or friends ... but have not heard from LIPA since this mess started last week," Laurie Hansen said via the Three Village Patch Facebook page.

In Port Jefferson – where LIPA officials have said repairs are more complicated and complete fixes may take longer than initially thought – Mayor Margot Garant said she has received "nothing but complaints" from residents regarding LIPA's communication with them.

"They update us two times a day with a conference call, which is very basic," she said in an email to Patch. "But there is no direct connection to the people. They are frustrated."

Brookhaven councilwoman Jane Bonner, who said she has been relaying information to her residents via email, telephone, and even face-to-face visits, agreed with Garant.

"People feel like they’re in the dark. They don’t feel like they have any communication with LIPA," Bonner said. "They have no electricity, no internet. There’s no cell phone service. LIPA wants them to call the 1-800 number, and they don’t have the telephone to call with."

Hahn said LIPA needs to take a multi-pronged approach to communication with its customers. She herself signed up for LIPA's text message alerts, but it was a lengthy process to get it to work properly, and the alerts were few and far between.

"Once they started, I should have gotten one of those every day telling me something. 'We know you’re still out,'" she said. "I feel like they should have used it more. But I understand that this was a bad storm. Everybody’s very frustrated."

Barbara Schindler Geraci was among those frustrated by the text message system. "Signed up for text messages, but the updates have been generic and of no use to me," she said via Facebook.

Another Facebook commenter, Karla Maroney, said she chose email updates from LIPA rather than text messages. "I get several updates a day," she said.

Still another, Jenney Dzwilewski, said: "I don't get updates – only what is said on the radio! You get disconnected everytime you call. ... It's so unreal!"

LIPA officials could not be reached for comment.

A LaValle representative said that "all of these issues are going to be addressed after power is restored to all Long Islanders."

At least one local official, Poquott Village Mayor Barbara Donovan, has said LIPA's communication with the municipalities was all that was needed in their village.

"It worked very well because I have very good communication with the residents. They were able to come into village hall and ask, or call," Donovan said. "We couldn’t tell them anything more than LIPA told us. But they knew we were getting an update at 11 a.m. and at 4:30 p.m., so some of them would come in at noon or 5:30 and ask."

With reporting by Lon Cohen.

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