Rockville Centre was lucky a year ago when it was spared the worst of the devastation from Hurricane Sandy, which left thousands without power and homes.
“I would call it an inconvenience to our residents, not devastation like our neighbors to the south,” said Mayor Francis Murray.
In the wake of the storm, many trees were downed all over the village and thousands were without power. But eight days later, 99 percent of residential village electric customers had their power restored, compared to the weeks that it took LIPA to restore power to customers.
The reason, Murray said, was because of the measures taken by Paul Pallas, the head of the Electric Department. Pallas quickly called up help from North Carolina and upstate to get the power back.
“All these crews worked 18-hour shifts,” Murray said. “We put them up in hotels, we fed them, and we were happy to do so. They worked their butts off until they got the whole village back on.”
Rockville Centre’s recovery was so efficient that state Senator Dean Skelos contacted Murray and ask him to have Rockville Centre power nearby towns, something that the village did not have the capacity to do.
But since the storm, Murray has been busy lobbying in Albany and Washington, working to get FEMA money to Rockville Centre to help the village and its neighbors.
The first project the mayor is working on is constructing a satellite office for the county’s Office of Emergency Management in Rockville Centre. Murray is asking for $14 million in FEMA funding to replace the firehouse at the intersection of Morris Avenue and Maple Avenue. The new facility would be larger, increasing from three bays to six, and would also house the OEM satellite office.
The bigger facility would allow Rockville Centre to house more fire trucks, meaning neighboring communities could drive their trucks to Rockville Centre to keep them safe. It would also be able to house a few workers, giving them a place to eat and sleep.
“We’re the first safe ground place coming north. Island Park lost all their fire trucks in Sandy,” Murray said. “Not only fire trucks, but bring your garbage trucks, bring your public works trucks and bring the police cars. We can stage them, we can fuel them, we can feed you and we can house you for a short amount of time.”
The facility would allow county OEM workers to have easier access to the South Shore. Currently, OEM has an office in Bethpage.
Murray also said that he has started lobbying for $38 million to upgrade the electric facility to help repower neighboring communities in the event of another huge power outage. With the upgrades, the village would be able to power LIPA substations to help other communities get electricity back much faster.
But Murray added that while people have been supportive of the projects, he doesn’t yet know if the funding for them is going to come through.
“We’re getting ready for the next one,” Murray said. “They say it may come, but hopefully not in our lifetime.”