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Sep 24, 2008 8:42 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Chamber of Commerce opposes usage-based LIPA surcharge

Sep 24, 2008 8:42 AM

As a group of advocates for a surcharge to pay for burying a new Long Island Power Authority transmission line in Water Mill took a second bus trip last week to meet with trustees from the utility company, the rumblings of revolt continued among some community groups.

Members of the group Committee for a Green South Fork chartered a bus to a public hearing by the utility’s board of trustees at the H. Lee Dennison building in Hauppauge on Wednesday, September 17, where they echoed their cries from earlier this year, asking LIPA to allow some South Fork residents to pay $8 million—half the cost of burying the 8.5-mile line—through a surcharge on their electric bills.

LIPA estimates that the surcharge, which is based on usage, will cost an average of $3.70 per month for a three-bedroom ranch house with central air conditioning. Commercial customers would pay an average of $10, though that figure is dependent on the size of the business.

Only Southampton Town residents east of the Shinnecock Canal, excluding Shinnecock Hills, Tuckahoe and the Shinnecock Indian Reservation, will pay the surcharge if it is approved.

LIPA’s board will vote on the matter on October 23.

This summer, LIPA installed the transmission line, which runs from a substation in Southampton Village up David White’s Lane and through a series of Water Mill back roads, then along Scuttle Hole Road to another substation on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike.

When the utility and Southampton Town agreed to the usage-based surcharge before work began in May, most of the public comments on the plan were positive, but in recent weeks some discontent has been brewing.

Southampton Village passed a resolution opposing the plan in mid-August. Village Board member Paul Robinson, who drafted the resolution, said that he believes many of the people who will not pay the surcharge, throughout the town and in neighboring East Hampton, will still benefit by not having to look at tall power lines.

The Southampton Chamber of Commerce also weighed in on the plan this week. In a written statement, Bob Schepps, president of the chamber’s board of directors, wrote that the surcharge will unfairly penalize Southampton Hospital, schools, churches and year-round residents. “The town has eliminated areas from the surcharge. This flies in the face of the argument that the visual benefit of this assessment is a townwide benefit,” he said.

He estimated that the hospital alone will pay $17,000 per year for 20 years.

“Since this is the first agreement of this kind, the town residents and businesses will bear the effects of this experiment with absolutely no financial impact study done,” he said, then asked that the estimates for the average surcharge be replaced by real figures before the LIPA board votes on the surcharge.

“We will all be impacted by this beyond the consumption surcharge with higher prices, higher taxes and higher living expenses,” he said.

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