Two bills on Con Ed street safety

By Albert Amateau

Two City Council bills introduced last week would force Con Edison and other electric power companies to establish guidelines and annual inspection schedules for their electrical infrastructure and complete repairs by Sept. 30 of each year.

The bills, one by Council Margarita Lopez and the other by Brooklyn Councilmember Michael C. Nelson, were both introduced Feb. 26 in response to the death of Jodie Lane, the East Village resident who was electrocuted Jan. 16 after falling on the charged cover of an electric service box on E. 11th St. just west of First Ave.

The two bills are separate but have similar provisions and are likely to be combined as one.

“We shouldn’t depend on utilities to monitor themselves,” said Lopez. “We need to make a law that they have to do inspections once a year with supervisors signing off on the work. Con Ed keeps repeating that workers are responsible for not doing the work right. This law would make them responsible for all work including outside contractors,” said Lopez, whose bill is also sponsored by Councilmember Peter F. Vallone Jr., of Queens.

“I have no problem with combining the bills as long as we have maximum protection for the public,” said Lopez.

All electric power companies, including the city and private co-generation providers, would have to establish guidelines, procedures and schedules for inspecting transformers, switching and protective equipment, regulators and capacitors, overhead and underground cables and conductors, as well as connection boxes, manhole covers and poles, under both bills.

The Lopez bill would also require surveys including tests for carbon monoxide levels of schools, daycare centers, churches, hospitals, nursing homes, theaters, arenas and dormitories. Underground and street-level equipment including manhole covers, poles and connector boxes that emit any electrical voltage would be deemed in need of repair, and power providers would be deemed responsible for all repairs by subcontractors, the Lopez bill says.

The signatures of a supervisor would have to certify the quality and completion of inspections and repairs. Power companies would be required to provide the City Council with periodic inspection and repair reports. The Lopez bill would also require electric service companies to inform the public about inspections and repairs.

Nelson agreed that the two bills could be combined.