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Snap Poll: RG&E, area officials get good grades

A large majority of respondents to this week’s RBJ Snap Poll gave positive ratings for the performance of both Rochester Gas and Electric and officials for their performance during and after the recent windstorm.

Roughly 75 percent of respondents graded RG&E’s performance as excellent or good, including 39 percent as excellent. In addition, two-thirds of respondents graded officials’ performance as excellent or good.

The windstorm that slammed the Rochester region last week brought power outages and damage on a scale last seen locally during the infamous Ice Storm of 1991.

As is often the case, the difficulties presented by nature’s fury brought out the best in neighbors and even strangers. The storm also elicited both praise and criticism of local officials and utility companies that faced the task of clearing roads; removing and replacing downed power lines, trees and utility poles; and coordinating efforts to keep residents warm and safe.

Workers from RG&E, supplemented by other crews from New York as well as neighboring areas, worked long hours to restore power to the more than 100,000 residents facing outages. The crews also battled frigid temperatures.

Yet, some, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, criticized RG&E for its performance and preparation. Cuomo has called for an investigation. Many of the respondents providing comments for this poll sharply criticized Cuomo for his statements.

Nearly 680 readers participated in this week’s Snap Poll, which was conducted March 14.

How would you rate the performance of officials during and after the recent windstorm?

Good 43% Excellent 24% Fair 21% Poor 12%

How would you rate the performance of RG&E during and after the recent windstorm?

Excellent  39%  Good 36%  Fair  13%  Poor 12%

I think RG&E did a great job, top to bottom, considering the challenges. I can’t believe a loudmouth lawyer from New York City (aka Gov. Cuomo) can come to Western New York and know that it should take exactly three days to replace 400 poles, 3,000 broken wires and deal with who knows how many downed trees while working in cold and windy conditions. 

—George Hansen, Qualvest

The locals all did well. The only bad response came from Cuomo and Schumer, who arrived late, ignorant of the facts and out to bad-mouth and discredit the locals.

—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield

This was an act of God, unexpected in its intensity and effect, so no real blame for the post-storm performance, even RG&E. However, I would fault RG&E for a lack of strategic planning, especially in view of the 1991 (and subsequent) ice storms and long-term outages due to weather. Regardless of who was/is in charge of the former RG&E or Iberdrola, the damage should not have been as extensive, and the response quicker.

—Charles Genese

Gov. Cuomo is attempting to position himself for a presidential run. This was an obvious and ham-handed attempt to portray himself as powerful, decisive and on top of things. Such a blatant effort to enhance his reputation while maligning others is just his style. 

—John Donohue 

I have no issue with RG&E; you tell me how they could have been better prepared or had better response. Mayor Warren and Gov. Cuomo—that’s another story. Where were they? I saw or heard from them not once. I should have been prepared for that.

—David Lamb, Rochester

It is ironic, indeed, that Gov. Cuomo, whose state government is such a model of seamless efficiency, has the audacity to call for an investigation of RG&E’s responsiveness. Political hypocrisy at its best!

—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency Inc.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is just grandstanding as he prepares for a run for president in 2020. He seems to be looking for more exposure as he proposes and institutes new progressive programs over the past couple of years. It’s so obvious. 

—Terry Palis, Corporate Communications Inc. 

Governor Cuomo should find a more productive use of his time and our money than using it to criticize the men and women who worked tirelessly in the freezing cold to get our power back up and running.

 —Mike Mancuso

I will say that doing more complete urban forestry preventive work could have avoided a lot of the downtime. We need to be constantly pruning and maintaining the urban forest to preventively reduce the chance of trees taking out power lines. That said, as usual the proper response is to bring in outside help, and prioritize getting large numbers of people up and running quickly—and they did that well. I feel bad for individuals who were left without power, but I think the prioritization that they applied was appropriate.

—Lee Drake, OS-Cubed Inc. 

Politicians like Cuomo should be required to climb a utility pole or ride a bucket and trim branches before being allowed to open their mouth. They don’t know the meaning of a 16-hour workday, day after day in treacherous conditions.

—Donald Smith

I was not happy with Governor Cuomo’s negative comments about RG&E. Those linemen and all the out-of-town crews did a great job in terrible conditions. I challenge him to climb into a bucket truck and see what real work is all about, something he’s never done! 

—George Thomas, Ogden

We live in an area with abundant trees. Utilities are above ground. These two don’t mix well. I would think that there would be a better way to have the utilities underground. Let’s not forget the internet. Many people work from home. Many businesses rely on the internet to function. The internet is a “utility” service. Spectrum did a terrible job letting people know when their service would be restored. Many people had to buy extra data from their cellphone carriers to continue their business. Spectrum could have put out information on where there was an outage and when it would be restored. There has to be a better way to keep our utilities functioning even if we have unusual weather.

—Jennifer Apetz

RG&E gets an A+ for effort. There’s no way any company can be 100 percent prepared for a mess of this magnitude, and their response was impressive. Supervisors Assini, Reilich and Seely all get A+. Gov. Cuomo gets an F-; if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem—too little, too late, too negative.

—John Adams

More grandstanding from Cuomo.

—Stuart Small, Pittsford Insurance Agency LLC

Worst kept secret out there. Cuomo is running for president and trying to appeal to a section of the state that can’t stand him. Go back to Albany raise our taxes and see how much faster you can get people to move out of New York State. Great platform to run on.

—Frank DeCiantis

Thank God that not more folk were killed or injured as a result of the dangerous conditions created and left by the windstorm. Please reward a special thanks to the folk who manned the phones and updated and operated the computer networked communications to try to inform those of us out here who were terrified by our tenuous power, phone and internet connections. And an especial thanks to our brothers and sisters who braved the winds and rain and cold to go out there to begin cleanup and repairs and to help those who needed immediate assistance. Thanks and all the best.

—Rusty Tyson

The Supervisors of Greece and Gates did an excellent job in keeping residents updated with frequent calls into WHAM. WHAM, of course, is the source for information in an emergency. RG&E did the best they could with their resources. When they realized the situation was so severe, they called in for mutual aid like they are supposed to do. It was tough to go for three full days with no power, but it is better than the full two weeks I went in the 1991 Ice Storm while I lived in the city of Rochester.

—Betsy Luss

Gosh, if we only had crystal balls. Given the 81 mph winds, and given that the majority of wire systems are above ground, and given that we love our trees, this storm (no surprise) wreaked havoc. Given all of these things, and the brutal weather conditions that continued, I’d say the response to the storm was pretty darn good. My home was powerless from Wednesday at 1 p.m. to late Saturday night but we saw repair trucks everywhere. Deepest gratitude to all who pulled together. 

—Holly Anderson

RGE communicated (with) the public very poorly. They said multi-day effort but it didn’t look like they restored anything the first two days. They could have said it would take five days for 90 percent and what the priorities were and then people could decide what to do. But basically, we had no info from RGE except rumors and their few press releases.

—Damian Kumor

The day after the storm I was headed east on the Thruway for four hours. I saw caravan after caravan of utility trucks from all over N.Y. On my way back I saw more caravans of utility trucks and tree removal trucks, some from Maine and Quebec. I don’t think the response to the power outage could have been much faster. I don’t know what Gov. Cuomo was complaining about.

—Dave Fister

Because I was without power for 80 (frigid) hours, I’d like to selfishly rate RG&E "poor." But that wouldn’t be fair or correct. With 24 hours advance warning, RGE mustered enough tree and line crews to remove debris, de-energize live wires, install new poles, replace broken cables and repair all kinds of distribution gear such that most (sadly, not all) people had power restored in less time than me. By most standards that kind of performance should rate as good to excellent.

—Dorver Kendig, Webster

Gov. Cuomo made a very bad call when he decided to criticize RGE right as they were working so hard to restore power to customers. He brought up some points regarding RGE’s possible lack of infrastructure maintenance that may bear investigation but his timing and tone were 100 percent wrong. This feels very similar to the way many police forces around the country have been called out when they are under extreme pressure in community crisis situations. The blame game does not play any positive role in cleaning up the current mess. Cuomo should have waited till the crisis was completely over and asked a few questions before accusing them of negligence.

—Tabitha McGurk

I think local officials and RG&E performed reasonably well. I think Gov. Cuomo’s response was lacking. To send 200 National Guard troops three days after the storm was too little and too late. I think he blamed RG&E to deflect criticism rightly directed at him.

—Brian Weaver

While it’s difficult to really know how each party performed, my main issue with RG&E was the lack of communication/dissemination of specific information. The most detailed info we received was after day three and that was a reference to a multi-day event. Guess what, we know that because it’s day three.

Hard for me to sit back in my warm house and rate the performance of a company that organized power companies from five+ states and another country (some trucks from New Brunswick, CA) to get most customers back up before Sunday was over and this Nor’easter came through. This country and our officials have a bad habit of criticizing actions during a crisis and not waiting until everyone is safe to assess a response. Most plans one can always poke some holes and say it could have been better, but that is the point of lessons learned and adjusting and assessing risk. I was disappointed to hear they did not have utility poles in stock and an executive had to fly in from Spain, but otherwise, the response and dedication to getting everyone back up with power met expectations.

—Keith Newcomer

The proactive, before the storm lack of tree maintenance is a problem. When I call, then my neighbors call about trees grown into the power lines and nothing is done for years. Everyone is rightfully pissed off when there is an electrical fire in the back yard due to the dead tree tearing down the power line. Front yard tree pulled the neighbors line out. Northern N.Y. power companies cut back trees, they know the wind, snow, ice is coming and are doing maintenance to be prepared.

—Jason Simmons 

Emergency workers do their best to cover the storm area. Could be we need a reminder about the thin line that keeps us from returning to the pre-electric days. Thanks their efforts.

— Wayne Donner Rush

I called in the fall to proactively come and remove tree branches, but they said they were going to do this in the spring. The company does not care about preventing power outages. We need more other utility companies to compete with RG&E to push down prices and provide better service. A class-action case should be brought for those who experienced any loss or damage when they requested tree limb removal near RG&E’s lines. RG&E acted negligently by ignoring those customers’ requests to remove branches.

—Brian Stiehler, Irondequoit.

I was not affected by the power outage so it’s easy for me to be complimentary. RG&E kept us informed and its employees busted their tails to repair damage unlike any I have seen since enduring a few Florida hurricanes. What stood out for me was Gov. Cuomo’s comments. It’s clear the governor was grandstanding. This was a highly unusual weather event despite what the he has to say. I take my morning workouts at a local gym around 6:30, about when the blue-collar guys are changing their clothes to go to work. So, I walked into the middle of a conversation about the impact of the storm. You can be assured Cuomo’s comments were quite unwelcome among those who have worked 24/7 in freezing temperatures to get us back on line.

— John Calia, Fairport

No doubt that this windstorm created numerous challenges for utility companies as well as many municipalities. I question the emergency preparedness plans that did not include police/traffic control presence at major intersections that experienced traffic light outages. Clearly dangerous situations that relied on sometimes unreliable drivers to abide by the 4-way stop rule made even more dangerous when there are six lanes of traffic in all directions.

— Joanna Grosodonia

Cuomo has to stop campaign; considering the circumstances they did fine.

—Matt Connolly

Workers I saw performed great in tough weather conditions. However, I was very upset and sent an email to RG&E that went unanswered for three days. My house and most of my neighbors within a two- mile radius did not have downed wires and we had power. Our power was turned off a day after the storm. According to the D&C we were among those that had to be "de-energized ". It strikes me as ludicrous that in this day and age when tens of thousands lose power, we must cut power to thousands more in freezing temperatures to fix the problem. By the time our power was cut hotels and motels were full, and my wife has a serious health condition. We need a real public utility, like our Water Authority, that invests in infrastructure and real engineering instead of a semi-privatized utility that pays million dollar salaries and stockholder dividends. None of the high salaried or stockholders were on those poles in frigid conditions restoring our light and heat.

—Jim Bertolone President Emeritus Rochester & Genesee Valley Labor Federation , AFL-CIO

I’m disappointed in Gov. Cuomo…Arriving a "day late and a buck short", rather than show some rallying leadership, he decided, from his limited perspective (He’d been out of the country for much of the previous week.) to criticize the efforts of RG&E at a time when it was crucial that people be more patient and resourceful. Just sayin’.

—Lee Loomis

It is easy to sit in your home and criticize. It is another thing to be one of the many out in this weather trying to restore power and cable to the masses. It is not the RG&E workers whom we should be upset with it is however our city and state officials who have dropped the ball. Once again the job we the people have elected them to do has been replaced with passing the buck double talk and lies.

—Cynthia Bailey 

Rule #1 Cuomo is and has always has been an idiot.

Dan Zarpentine

Andrew Cuomo, go stand in the corner facing the wall until we ask you to return to the living room with the adults. 

—Jim Bongard, Webster

 

3/17/2017 (c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email [email protected]et.

2 comments

  1. I am in complete agreement with Brian Stiehler of Irondequoit. If our trees had been removed and trimmed last June as promised, much of the damage and power outages could have been avoided. RG&E contracted Birchcrest Tree and Lawn to complete the project last year. On 5/24/16 I received a door hanger alerting me of my upcoming tree removal on 6/7/16. On June 9th I received a letter saying that the project was on hold because of a crane incident. Apparently the Birchcrest crane flipped over causing property damage to several customers in Irondequoit. Understandably there would be some recovery time, but if Birchcrest was not in a position to complete the project, RG&E should have hired a different contractor to get the job done. In the 9 months since the incident I have called RG&E repeatedly to ask when they were starting up the project again. Most recently on January 20, 2017 I was told the the project had resumed and I would get a letter within 2 weeks to tell me when they were coming. Today is March 20th and I still have not received any notification. During the most recent windstorm, one of the large trees that was marked for removal last summer fell within inches of my neighbors main power line to their house. Because it was not directly on the line, RG&E said they are not responsible for it. Therefore my neighbor and I are stuck with the $3400 bill (from Birchcrest!). This is unacceptable and I believe RG&E should be held responsible. I have no issue with how they handled the recent storms, but I sincerely believe I would not have lost power for 5 days had they completed the project as originally promised. I’m sure thousands of other customers would have been spared as well. I wonder what costs RG&E more, having the trees trimmed and removed, or bringing in companies from all over the Northeast working nights and weekends to clean up the devastation caused by the trees not being removed?

  2. A lot of negative comments posted about Governor Cuomo calling for an investigation into RG&E’s level of preparedness. At the time, it sounded like he was grandstanding and dozens of your readers said that. All due respect to the men and women who worked endlessly to restore power in our neighborhoods, They should be applauded. And we now know that RG&E was significantly behind on their submitted Capital plan to replace utility poles. Perhaps the Governor is right in calling for an investigation after all.

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