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Blackouts in Lansing

After still more power outages in Lansing this week, Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne told Tompkins County Legislator Mike Sigler to 'be our champion' in an effort to bring more reliable power to the town.  LaVigne has been updating frustrated Lansing citizens on Facebook, and said that many people's electronics have been destroyed by the constant blackouts in the town.

"(County Legislature Chair) Martha Robertson is already on board with a lot of stuff," LaVigne said Wednesday. "She is very concerned.  So is (Airport Manager) Mike Hall.  We're the only town that's growing 2% in the whole area.  If we don't have reliable power I'm afraid that won't last much longer."

LaVigne, who also sits on the Airport Advisory Board, told the Lansing Town Board Wednesday that the airport  lost a $20,000 HVAC unit because of the blackout Saturday.

"The top line fell on the bottom line, and it shorted out, and the pole burned," he said. " I would really urge, especially if we're going put more electricity on the grid for heat pumps and that type of thing to get away from carbon.  We need reliable power.  I don't have a dog in the fight as far as where it comes from.  I want it inexpensive, and I want it reliable."

On his Facebook feed he posted this update from a NYSEG representative: "The outage on our 522 transmission line was the result of a 34.5kv insulator failure at the intersection of Cobb St. and Peruville Road, a NYSEG representative told LaVigne. "This was not directly related to the switch failure at Cargill. The 522 line does, however, feed both of these areas. The lock out of the line this particular time happened out of the Etna Substation. We were able to switch the transmission out and pick up most of our customers in under two hours. One distribution circuit out of our South Lansing Substation still needed repair. These are the customers that experienced the longest outage. We immediately pulled every resource we had in the division (NYSEG and contractor) to make this outage duration as short as possible. We realize with the outage situations we have had in the past few months with the 522 line that the customers affected would likely assume that the same areas are in question. As I'm sure customers have seen bucket trucks in these areas over the past few months, we are taking a proactive approach and patrolling the lines in these areas and fixing deficiencies as we find them.

"We have replaced 1 recloser, 3 switches, some cross arms and insulators in the area. We will be replacing another switch in the next two weeks. With the replacements that have been taking place we are hopeful that these outages will be minimized. The weather and some trees have been a direct result of some of these issues. This section of transmission line has been foot patrolled and as far as trees within our right of way are concerned, we have no issues. The tree damage that has taken place are trees that have fallen outside of our right of way."

The damage wasn't limited to the airport.  Countless residents complained of losing electric and electronic equipment.  One woman said the main breaker to her home was fried.  Another said she has to replace her dishwasher because of the outage.

"We had people who were without power for eight or ten hours," LaVigne complained. "Our code officer lost his computer.  He lost his cable.  He lost his furnace - that didn't come on for ten hours.  We've had elderly people whose computer was fried.  An 80 year old man -- he lives down the road.  He has nothing now."

LaVigne said that restoring power was made more difficult because the downed power line was in a swampy area.

"The conversation is that within five percent of the voltage, you won't have these spikes," he said. "Part of the reason is because the power plant is not online.  The engineers are telling me these things.  All these things about transferring to (non-carbon energy) are noble ideas.  I'm not opposed to that, but you have to have a safe, reliable transition from one to the other so people don't get hurt."

LaVigne promised to continue passing on information as he receives it.  He said he will contact State Senator pam Helming to ask her to pursue an investigation into the outages, and the get NYSEG to come up with an action plan for preventing future blackouts.  He is also asking her what the process is for financial compensation to the people who were affected.

Sigler said he would do whatever is needed to help find a resolution to the problem.

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