WOODBURY - LIPA's response to Superstorm Sandy nearly a year ago prompted a PSEG takeover of the utility, which is set to start in January.

After Sandy hit, the lights stayed off for weeks in areas across Long Island. Residents say LIPA kept them in the dark about when they'd get their power back.

A state panel blasted LIPA for not doing enough to harden the system. The panel said the utility used outdated methods and technology, including tracking outages with pencils and paper.

As a result, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed through a plan to severely downsize LIPA and hand over most control to private utility PSEG, which is set to take over in January.

"It's a two-year transition," PSEG Vice President Dave Daly says. "The first piece was a very deep assessment of how things are done today, which resulted in us making a series of recommendations for change."

Daly says those changes include more tree trimming, a state-of-the-art call center and the use of social media to communicate with customers.

The agreement with PSEG calls for a two-year freeze on electric rates, except for fuel costs. So how does the new utility plan to pay for fixes to the system?

"That's a challenge," Daly says. "But it's a challenge that world class utilities step up to and meet."

That response is too vague for LIPA critic and former utility executive Matt Cordaro. He says he fears the rate hike that customers could see in the future.

"It could be astronomical," Cordaro says. "Hopefully, it's not."

When asked what ratepayers might expect after the promised rate freeze, Daly would only say that PSEG will "look for ways to keep rates as stable as possible."