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LIPA Head Gets Grilled And Scolded At Hearing On Irene Response

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBS 2) -- LIPA officials were on the hot seat at a public hearing Thursday and answering tough questions about the utility's response to Tropical Storm Irene.

Irene's wind and rain pummeled many Long Island communities and left more than 523,000 LIPA customers without power -- some for more than a week.

Huntington resident Charles Givens took off from work Thursday morning to attend a public hearing in Mineola. Givens was without power for five days and was not pleased with the agency's service.

"They never responded back to me and I called two other times before Friday, when my power did finally come back on. And again, no response from LIPA at all," Givens said.

State Sen. Carl Marcellino chaired the hearing and it wasn't pretty.

"What happened? Put it the way I put it, what the hell happened?" Marcellino asked.

"This is not on-the-job training and all I keep hearing is 'assessment and review' and 'assessment and review' -- you failed," said Sen. Charles Fuschillo, Jr.

During grilling by the committee, LIPA Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey admitted his agency could have kept local municipalities in the loop with better preparation.

"To give the mayors the information they needed in advance, because in many cases they were seeing this as we were going. We had a plan we were executing, but they were discovering it as we executed it," Hervey said.

"God forbid we have another storm, and we well could -- any day now. And over the winter we could have a storm that could hit. They're not prepared I don't believe to handle these things," Marcellino told CBS 2's Mark Morgan.

Asked by Morgan if LIPA felt it "let customers down," Hervey responded "I think we did an excellent job of getting power back on quickly, but what we want to do and our customers demand is that we communicate better and we'll put new processes in place to do that."

Committee members repeatedly called LIPA's response system a "failed model" that needs to be completely overhauled. Senator Marcellino summed it up by saying the plan simply didn't didn't work.

Moving forward, Marcellino said he wants an outside, independent review of LIPA and it's structure. LIPA has estimated the repairs will cost $176 million and that federal relief funds will cover about 75 percent.

What is your reaction to Thursday's LIPA hearing?  Share your thoughts in the comments section...

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