Robots, Utility Bills and a Shark on Her Way to the Hamptons

SHARK COMING THIS WAY
A few years ago, a shark-tagging outfit got a 2-ton killer shark to slide up onto the metal deck of a ship off Cape Cod so they could place an electronic location tagging device into its dorsal fin. Then it slid back out, sank beneath the waves and swam off. This is the real deal. A shark capable of swallowing a man whole.

This week this shark, called Mary Lee by the humans who wish to distinguish it from other killer sharks, began to swim north off the coast of New Jersey, heading for the Hamptons. It is, at this point, complete with fan base, Twitter account and friends and family. She’s been written up in The New York Times, The New York Post, Newsday and, well, here she comes. And she’s pregnant. On Friday she was just off Fire Island. So she’s sniffing around. If you see her coming, however, just pat her on the nose and say “Nice Mary Lee.” You’ll probably be fine.

PSEG
One month ago, our new glorious power company, PSEG Long Island, proposed to increase our fixed service charge from $10.80 to about $20 by 2018. This came as a surprise to everyone because PSEG L.I. has so far done a pretty good job and everyone agrees they’re a whole lot better in delivering power than the company they replaced, LIPA. They’ve upgraded their computers, provided better service and they do surveys that tell us how much we love them all the time, so we do.

But then earlier this year, PSEG L.I. submitted a big, thick report to the State of New York to back up their request for this huge 3-year increase, which the State must agree with and approve. A decision is supposed to be made on June 4, yay or nay.

This is the first time, to my knowledge, that a power company has backed up a request for a rate increase with numbers. It has not gone over well. We owe it all to a woman named Julia Bovey, Long Island director of the Department of Public Service, and her staff. They made a study of it and found the requested $221 million hike is about $180 million too high. They recommend approval of a measly $47.8 million.

What she says is that PSEG L.I. can save $2.1 million by not double-counting expenses including employee bonuses, not double counting $3.4 million of Nine-Mile Point decommissioning costs, not doing math with high interest rates in debt management to save $17.6 million, not over-stating offsets for expected inflation for $17.6 million, refinancing Shoreham debt with a new depreciation formula to save $109 million, reducing new spending initiatives saving $8.1 million, reducing proposed advertising expenses to save $4.4 million, reducing smart-meter staff and computer expenses to save $4.8 million, reducing the tree-trimming budget to save $4.3 million and reducing pole expenses and maintenance by $6.2 million.

Bovey credits deputy director Wayne Brindley for doing much of the work on the filing. And I am sure the PSEG L.I. will be happy to go along in the reduction of their proposed increase from 3.7% to 0.6%. Bravo, you two!

ROBOTISTS WIN TROPHY
The rookie robotics team from tiny Bridgehampton High School (155 students), after qualifying in the regional competitions, went to the national finals in St. Louis and was awarded a trophy for finishing second—that is second in the United States—in the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship. The competition involved students using remote controls to get their robots to stack things or put them into or out of bins.

It was a long and winding road to get this, however. There were 76 entrants in the competition and after the first round, Bridgehampton’s team stood at 61. It was highly unlikely they could get a trophy. But a team from Oregon liked what Bridgehampton brought to the plate and in the quarterfinals, where teams could join up with one another, Oregon and Bridgehampton got together with two other teams and won that quarterfinal, and then won their semifinal, before losing the final. Imagine that. Second place in the nation for Bridgehampton High School. Hard to believe.

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