Greenport electric plant upgrade buzzing

11/10/2011 2:00 PM |


KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Workers from hawkeye LLC dig a ditch for piping required to install a new transformer at the Greenport electric plant on Moore's Lane. The work began last week.

As Greenport Village nears completion of its sewer plant upgrade, it’s also moving forward with its long-delayed $5.8 million electric plant upgrade.

Mayor David Nyce said he expects the village to complete a total upgrade of its utilities by the time he leaves office in 2015. The mayor has said his current term will be his last.

His goal is for the village to earn more money by generating and selling power and extending sewer service outside the village, particularly for jobs-producing commercial development.

Four years ago, during Mr. Nyce’s first year in office, the Village Board began to push to improve the light plant and authorized Bob Braun, a principal with Genesys Engineering, to outline a proposal for the required work.

“What we’re required to do is provide clean, safe, reliable power,” the mayor said.

Toward that end, during the last three years, George Tancredi, initially of Marathon Marine and later working as an independent contractor, has taken on rebuilding the three power-generating engines. That overhaul is about 90 percent complete, Mr. Nyce said.

A report submitted last year by CPA William Freitag said that without the repairs, the system would be in jeopardy. He added that not all the power generated is reaching customers’ homes.

While some “line loss” is inevitable, Mr. Freitag said last year, Greenport was averaging 11.5 to 15 percent. An improved distribution system would reduce that loss to about 3 percent, he said. Another consultant said the distribution system hadn’t been maintained or upgraded in at least 10 years.

While Greenport currently saves money by avoiding a fee it would be charged if it had no ability to generate power, that savings won’t continue forever, the mayor said. He would like to make money by eventually having the village produce 2 to 2.5 megawatts regularly and obtain permission from New York Power Authority to sell it.

The electric plant project isn’t without its controversy, as former utilities chief Bill Swiskey has tangled with current director Jack Naylor over what needs to be done and what it should cost. And Trustee Mary Bess Phillips has criticized Mr. Naylor for delays in getting the project put out to bid, complaining that the result was a spate of service breakdowns.

From Mr. Swiskey’s vantage point, the village has twice paid for Braun reports and spent more on engineering plans than it should have. And while Mr. Braun and Village Board members supported installation of a new backup generator and new switch gear, Mr. Swiskey continues to argue that much of the work isn’t necessary and money is being spent recklessly.

Aside from the work on the engines, new transformer and switch gear, cosmetic work at the plant is sorely needed, Mr. Nyce said. During Tropical Storm Irene, one obvious need emerged — a new roof to keep water from splashing into the plant, the mayor said.
In addition to perhaps selling electrical power, the mayor also wants the board to explore extending sewer lines to accommodate more customers outside of village boundaries. Greenport already makes money from hookup and sewer service fees from customers such as Peconic Landing and the San Simeon by the Sound nursing home. Once the system is rebuilt, there will be excess capacity to accommodate more non-resident customers, the mayor said.

Extending sewer service to the west would provide an incentive to businesses to locate on the North Fork, Mr. Nyce said.

Several of the pump stations need work and sewer pipes must be assessed to determine if they need replacement or simple monitoring to assure they’re working effectively, he added.

As for the village’s third enterprise fund, the water company, that’s something the Village Board might have to consider selling, he said.

Suffolk County Water Authority, which purchased much of the village’s system years ago, isn’t anxious to acquire the rest, he said.

And some villagers may not be anxious to give up the remaining system.

“That’s going to come down to a dollars and cents decision,” the mayor said.

By the time he completes his current term in 2015, he hopes to have both the sewer and electric plants achieve landmark status and become tourist attractions, he said. Not many towns and villages can boast of having their own utility systems, he said.

“I’d love to have this be a showcase,” he said.

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