Today’s news:

Pressure On Con Ed to Tie Up Loose Ends And Eliminate Hot Spots

When a big utility like Con Edison breaks a promise, it’s not just shocking. It’s abhorrent — especially when that broken promise puts lives at risk, according to one local legislator. Following a litany of citywide “shockings” on electrified sections of sidewalk throughout the five boroughs – including the headline-grabbing story about a Park Slope dog that died after being electrocuted — State Senator Carl Kruger announced last week that he will be introducing legislation requiring state utilities to conduct regular inspections for “hot spots” in their service areas. Kruger has been calling for these inspections since February 2004, upon hearing news that Manhattan resident Jodie Lane was killed after stepping on one of these electrified hot spots. His initial pleas to Con Edison, however, were answered by a “fuzzy agreement” to check the hot spots – an agreement “that clearly didn’t work,” according to staffers. The senator hopes to garner support for his bill requiring annual inspections of manhole covers, service box covers and utility poles to determine the presence of stray voltage in the next legislative session. On Wednesday morning, a Park Slope resident was taking his collie-chow mix Barkis near the corner of 3rd Street and 4th Avenue when the dog walked over a concrete slab electrified by live wires. The dog was immediately brought to a veterinary hospital, where he died. Con Edison officials later determined that Barkis was shocked by a live wire that once fed into a lamppost near the corner. The lamppost had been removed two years ago, officials said. “After conferring with the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), and further review of the agency’s records, as well as our own, it appears we were notified in March 1999 to cut service to a city streetlight that had been scheduled for removal by the DOT,” said a Con Edison spokesperson. “Based on our review, this was not done. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Barkis’ family.” Sources said that Barkis didn’t step on a metal grating or a manhole cover. The frayed wires were underneath a slab of pavement. “But water and salt conduct electricity,” said one source who said that last week’s snowstorm may have played a part in turning an innocent looking corner into a deathtrap. The afternoon following Barkis’ death, technicians had capped off the line, killing the charge. But the damage had already been done, according to Kruger. “By now, it ought to be clear that these terrible incidents are not anomalies but a clear sign that something needs to be changed,” he said. Over the last few weeks, there have been a handful of reports across the city of animals and adults that have suffered mild shocks from electrified sidewalks or sewer caps.

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