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Some Long Island Residents Remain Unsatisfied By LIPA's Promises

HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - More than 100,000 customers on Long Island remain without power two weeks after superstorm Sandy devastated parts of the Tri-State Area, according to Long Island Power Authority.

LIPA also had a change of heart about the inspection they told residents would have to undergo before they could get power, but the big move was not enough to end the outrage.

As CBS 2's Dave Carlin reported, Paul Walters of Baldwin Harbor was among the tens of thousands of LIPA customers still without power as of Sunday night. He described his current state as "frustrated; emotionally drained."

Walters said the latest promise about the Tuesday restoration deadline brings him no satisfaction.

"LIPA has failed us miserably," he said.

LIPA addressed the continued outages at a news conference late Sunday afternoon.

"We continue to make good progress on the restoration. Ninety-five percent of the customers that can safely receive power from LIPA currently have been restored," said John Bruckner, president of LIPA partner National Grid. "We remain on track to restore power to 99 percent of those customers who lost, and can safely receive, power by the end of the day Tuesday."

Bruckner said LIPA was utilizing every resource available.

"We did receive the additional 500 linemen, bringing the total number of linemen on the property to 6,400 high-voltage linemen, and over 3,700 tree trimmers," he said. "The LIPA system on a normal day has approximately 200 linemen that perform construction activities as linemen on LIPA's property."

Roughly of the customers without power live in the non-flooded areas, about 54,000 are unable to receive power because of damaged equipment in their homes.

The numbers do not include tens of thousands of homes that are too badly damaged to have electricity turned back on, according to LIPA.

LIPA President Michael Hervey said the utility has made major progress in some key areas. All nursing homes in Suffolk County, and most in Nassau County, had their power back as of Sunday, he said.

Also, all universities and college and most schools – except some school buildings in East Rockaway, Oceanside and Island Park – have power back, Hervey said.

Bruckner said crews were meeting the challenges of getting power to everyone who can receive it.

"Those actually behind houses, in wooded areas, where they are not accessible by the trucks with the buckets, the men and the women out there working have to go into those rear properties – typically obstructed by fences – remove debris before it allows us to do the construction activities," he said.

LIPA will set up information bases in communities with ongoing repairs, so as to keep customers abreast with the latest updates, Hervey said.

He added that he understands customers' frustration, and is looking at any improvements necessary.

"We will look at any improvements we need to make in the process. We will go through a deliberate process of making any improvements indicated. But at this point, we certainly understand the frustration," Hervey said.

Hervey also announced controversial rules for inspecting each home are streamlined. Customers no longer need to wait for an official utility assessor. Instead an electrician can start the work.

"And that should help those homes get power more quickly, and with one less step for the homeowners," Hervey said.

Some called that the single best piece of news from LIPA in two weeks, finally cutting through red tape. Some elected officials call it late but better late than never.

"We're going to allow electricians to turn back on the meters which formerly you'd have to go through LIPA, and that is going to speed things up apparently, but this type of communication, this type of cooperation, should have been a lot earlier here, and it's really resulted in anger and outrage," said Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.

But as to when all the outages would be fixed, Bruckner said that was the wrong way of looking at the problem.

"I'm often asked the question, when will it be zero? The LIPA system is very dynamic. There are outages for a series of reasons – not just storm-related – and as we continue to work the outages as a result of Hurricane Sandy and the following blizzard, we will continue to take on outages."

Hervey also remarked on a comment by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's announcement that he would visit substations instead of contacting LIPA management, on the grounds that management has not been communicative.

"The county executive is welcome in our substations anytime. He always has been. We understand he has visited some substations. You know, it's our expectation that the National Grid is maintaining control of those sites," Hervey said.

CHECK: Latest LIPA Outage Numbers

Hundreds of residents were at protest rallies across Long Island this weekend. The latest was in Baldwin Harbor.

"We sleep with insulated underwear, sweatpants, sweatshirts, and three quilt covers. I mean, come on!" said Marilyn Cashdan of Baldwin Harbor. "No one cares about us."

She wants LIPA disciplined.

"The governor should fire them all," Cashdan said.

In Hicksville, which was not directly impacted by Sandy, residents said earlier Sunday that the outage situation has gone on too long.

"It's just dark and cold, that sizes it up," Hicksville resident John Cavallo told CBS 2's Steve Langford.

This weekend has seen protests against LIPA for what customers called a slow response in getting the power back on. Residents also complained that information was slow to come or misleading.

Protests were held at LIPA headquarters in Uniondale and in Massapequa, with fed up residents with signs demanding swifter action to restore power.

"It's like going on and on and on. End it," Plainview resident Sharon Reed said at a LIPA protest in Massapequa on Saturday.

Some residents who had their power restored following Sandy were knocked back offline from the nor'easter, further frustrating some residents, Langford reported.

Politicians have vowed that once all the power is back up, they will fire up a series of hearings that could keep LIPA's leaders on the hot seat.

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