Greenport ‘power struggle’ hits new heights

by |
10/19/2010 4:46 PM |

The gloves came off Monday night as Greenport Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips lashed out at utilities director Jack Naylor for prolonged delays in getting upgrades under way at the electric department. The result has been a recent spate of service breakdowns.
“Dammit, you know how to run a project, so get the project moving,” Ms. Phillips told Mr. Naylor.
Three years ago, the Village Board began pushing for improvements at the electric department and Bob Braun, a principal with Genesys Engineering, has at least twice outlined proposals for work that needs to be done.
But the $5 million project still hasn’t gone out for bids and Village Board members have been unable even to get a look at bid documents.
“It’s like a game,” Trustee Chris Kempner complained.
Monday night, Mr. Naylor promised that the documents, which have been saved on a Genesys computer and are accessible only with a password, would be available to the public and potential bidders by Tuesday, Oct. 26.
Monday, after about two months of outages around the village, capped by a three-day outage at Driftwood Cove over the Columbus Day weekend, Ms. Phillips told Mr. Naylor she had had enough.
With lineman Jim Fogarty out of town for the weekend, Mr. Naylor didn’t know that a transformer was available at the plant that could have corrected that outage within hours, rather than days. But proper communications should have been in place to ensure that someone could properly handle the outage in Mr. Fogarty’s absence, Ms. Phillips said.
Mr. Fogarty, in a rambling response to the board members, blamed them for failing to replace a long-broken monitoring system and for allowing understaffing of his department to continue.
The department remains understaffed, despite the board’s agreement to replace a lineman who left months ago, the mayor and others agreed. Mr. Naylor has had permission for six months to hire an assistant, but hasn’t yet done so, Trustee George Hubbard said.
“As an entire group, we need to tighten up,” Ms. Phillips said,
The outspoken trustee has frequently taken on other issues in the village, but was recently accused by a taxpayer of going easy on the electric department because her son and one of her tenants work there.
“I can’t ignore it anymore,” Ms. Phillips said Monday.
“It has to be run like a business,” she told Mr. Naylor, complaining that it’s unacceptable for electric customers to get an answering machine instead of a person when they call with power problems.
“Somebody has got to pick up the phone,” Trustee Michael Osinski said.
“I’m not just putting you on the hot seat; there are two others,” Ms. Phillips said, addressing Mr. Naylor. Village attorney Joseph Prokop and village clerk Sylvia Lazzari Pirillo are also responsible, she said.
“Since I’m a nudge, I found a communications breakdown between the village clerk, the village attorney and the director of utilities,” Ms. Phillips said. “I’m a little bit disappointed in all three of you — I’m angry.”
“This is not how I would run a business,” Mayor David Nyce said. He has been asking all department heads to submit regular maintenance plans, but six months after making that request, he said, he still isn’t getting them.
While acknowledging that a lot of board attention has gone to the $9 million sewer plant reconstruction project, the mayor said it’s past time to address problems at the light plant.
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