Sparks fly as Bethlehem residents confront National Grid

Stormy fall weather on Thursday, Sept. 27, preceded an even stormier presentation that same evening in Bethlehem by National Grid inside town hall regarding the recent outages occurring in neighborhoods across town.

The major Upstate utility supplier was in town to discuss the many changes that will be implemented over the next year to control the persistent power outage problem.

We're here tonight to put the cards on the table and to address these issues, said Bill Flaherty, vice president of business services for National Grid.

Residents representing Douglas Road, Carstead Drive, North Heldeberg,

McGuffey Lane and other parts of Delmar and Bethlehem vented their years of frustration with having to sit in the dark at home while their refrigerated food spoiled or having to drive to a mall or stay in a hotel to wait it out until service is restored after an outage.

"We put up with this for 35 years," said a McGuffey Lane resident. "We lose power when it's hot; we lose power when it rains."

Carol Dillon of Kenholm Gardens told the audience she had the same problems in her neighborhood, which inspired her to rally residents to get National Grid to correct the problem.

"I am here to say to you tonight it will get better," said Dillon, adding it took National Grid about six months to rectify the problem in Kenholm Gardens.

One of the main reasons for outages in Bethlehem, according to National Grid, is because of the many trees throughout town. Information provided by National Grid at the meeting showed that downed trees caused 37 percent of all outages in town in 2007.

"We need to do significant tree trimming and tree removal in Bethlehem," said Flaherty.

National Grid expects to spend $1.2 million over the next year on tree cutting and trimming, with even more money to be spent on upgrading equipment.

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