Residents and officials sounded off about Connecticut Light and Power's (CL&P) lack of communication and slow response times in the aftermath of the March 12 nor'easter at a public hearing at Westport Town Hall on April 12. The hearing was held by the Department of Public Utility Control at the instruction of Governor Rell.
Several residents told of being without power for days with no clear indication of when the lights would come back on. Norwalk resident Bill Stirling said, "Cablevision is great -- if you have power." When the lights went out, so did the television and the internet connection, he said. In some cases outages lasted 4 days or more days. For many, losing electricity also meant no phone service.
Stirling served as a CL&P lineman for 35 years, he said at the hearing, and was involved with the unions for most of his career. He attended the Westport meeting to voice his concerns on the communication issue. During the outage, Stirling took it upon himself to check up on an elderly neighbor.
"She felt like she didn't know what was going on," Stirling told the DPUC members.
Fire Chief Christopher Ackley called CL&P's response time, which was delayed by up to 48 hours, was "unacceptable."
"There needs to be a way to back-bill the power company after an unreasonable amount of time," Ackley said. He was concerned that emergency personnel, fire and police, were forced to guard downed live wires, in some cases for as long as 22 hours, because utility workers had not arrived. Frequently, he said, flipping a breaker would have resolved the emergency, but there were no utility workers to do it.
On the communication issue, Ackley did note the town's CodeRED program, whhich notifies residents of emergency situations by phone. After the recent nor'easter, he suggested some people might consider registering their cellphones in case land lines are disrupted. The town can also utilize WWPT 90.3 FM, the Staples radio station, in emergencies, he said. "As luck would have it," Ackley added, "they were off the air."
Manager of Governmental Affairs at Northeast Utilities Tom Dorsey said the utility company always wants to get the power restored quickly.
Dorsey said, "We want those meters to run because that is how we make money." CL&P is a Northeast Utilities Company.
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