National Grid makes Slingerlands upgrades

Slingerlands resident Janice Pata moved into her home on Southwood Drive about four years ago, and it didn't take her long to become acquainted with the neighborhood gripe: power outages.

It seemed like any small weather issue and we'd have an outage, she said.

The problem was frequent enough for the neighborhood to band together in petitioning National Grid and the Town of Bethlehem for a solution to the problem, and after a $36,000 March upgrade, the power company says that outages to Pata's neighborhood have decreased dramatically.

In 2007 and 2008 the circuit feeding the neighborhood experienced 10 outages and 13 outages, respectively. Four outages have been recorded in 2009, according to National Grid.

The biggest cause of outages in this part of town is foliage bringing down lines, which happens most often in ice storms and periods of high wind, said Manager of Overhead Lines Jim Murphy.

"We did have issues," he said.

The solution was to trim tree branches and remove "danger trees," or dead, heavy trees that could collapse onto the lines. Since the power lines in these neighborhoods ran behind the houses, they were not only more likely to be surrounded by foliage but were also more difficult to access.

National Grid made numerous equipment upgrades in the area, including replacing and improving poles, transformers and fuses.

It took the area's most dramatic ice storm in years to bring crews out to the neighborhood. Pata and her neighbors raised their concerns at a January meeting at Bethlehem Town Hall that was called to discuss the December 2008 ice storm. National Grid representatives were present at that meeting, and agreed to meet again in March to listen to the Slingerlands residents.

"[It was] the second time in my memorywhere we had a large area in town complaining to Town Hall that they were having frequent outages," said Supervisor Jack Cunningham, the other instance being during the administration of Theresa Egan.

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