Editorial: Secrecy may speak to larger plant problems in Greenport

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Work at the  at the Greenport power plant on Moore's Lane in 2011.
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Workers at the at the Greenport power plant in 2011.

Greenport Mayor David Nyce this week described the New York Power Authority as “less than forthcoming or helpful” in providing information about a $108,000 power plant-related penalty imposed on the village last year. We don’t doubt Mr. Nyce’s assessment.

After all, it takes one to know one.

This is the same elected official who in December was also less than forthcoming or helpful in providing details about why a line on residents’ electric bills had shot up that month without warning. When asked by a reporter if there were a reason residents weren’t informed that the steep charges were coming, he smugly replied: “Nope.”

Related: How Greenport’s $108K power plant penalty came to light

We saw a more contrite mayor at Monday night’s board meeting, at which he offered an almost 10-minute, virtually impenetrable explanation of the penalty and other issues that have caused bills to rise.

His explanation came only after William Swiskey, former trustee and utilities director turned Village Board watchdog, had acquired and shared with The Times correspondence between a village account clerk who had been left in the dark about the penalty and a NYPA official.

One November email from NYPA to the employee read that the mayor had been advised of the $108,000 penalty “when he was here in our offices in September.”

So, why the big secret?

Could it be the village’s long-delayed $5.8 million power plant upgrade has run into major problems that aren’t being disclosed? We’re only left to wonder — and wonder we will, now that Mr. Nyce has proven himself willing to hide important matters of concern from residents.

We’ll also speculate on why the one-time charges in December were tied to customer usage and buried in the “Purchased Power Adjustment” line — rather than being split up evenly among village electric customers and accompanied by a clear explanation of the entire matter. This all indicates to us that Mr. Nyce does not want people asking questions related to the power plant.

Still, there are questions to be asked, such as: Did the village ever formally investigate what, exactly, caused the mechanical failure at the plant that cost ratepayers so much money? If so, what did it find? And who or what was to blame?

If it was possibly the fault of an outside contractor, did the village ever consider going after that party to recoup its losses? If not, why?

And what’s being done to prevent other mechanical failures in the future?

If such an investigation has been undertaken, village residents have a right to know the results. And if it hasn’t, it should be.

Village residents deserve at least that much.