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Westport, Utilities Review Response To Sandy

From left, Westport Police Chief Dale Call, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff and Fire Chief Andrew Kingsbury listen as Connecticut Light & Power Vice President Bill Quinlan explains the power restoration process during a public forum Monday night. Photo Credit: Vanessa Inzitari
Westport resident Richard Leyshon asks Connecticut Light & Power representatives what the company's priorities are when it comes to power restoration at Monday night's post-Sandy public forum. Photo Credit: Vanessa Inzitari

WESTPORT, Conn. – Only a handful of residents attended a forum in Westport Monday night to ask Connecticut Light & Power representatives questions about the utility's response to Hurricane Sandy — unlike last year’s post-Hurricane Irene forum , which drew dozens of concerned residents.

Resident Richard Leyshon, who lives on Cross Highway, said the town and CL&P did a “relatively good job” responding to the storm. He only questioned how CL&P prioritizes power restoration.

“Your priorities seem to be pretty cryptic,” he told representatives from the power company. “Often times, I see people 200 yards away from my house who have their power restored days before I do.”

When it comes to power restoration, Bill Quinlan, a senior vice president for CL&P, said after restoring power to its own grids and substations, priorities are to restore critical facilities, such as hospitals, police and fire departments, shelters, and wastewater treatment plants. Next, crews begin bulk restoration, in which the priority is to restore the largest number of customers using the fewest resource hours, he said.

Todd Blosser, director of operations for CL&P's southern division, compared the restoration process to plowing roads after a snowstorm.  Before driveways are plowed, he said, highways must be cleared, followed by major roads, then side roads and finally, individual driveways. The same is true with power restoration, he said, explaining that central areas of town take priority.

“If your driveway is plowed but the rest of the roads aren’t, you’re not going to get anywhere,” Blosser said. “Likewise, it doesn’t help to start restoring power to smaller segments if larger sections are not up and energized.”

Resident Allen Bomes, a member of the Representative Town Meeting, the town’s legislative body, asked the power company where it stands on burying power lines underground. Although possible, Quinlan said burying power lines would not come cheap.

“The cost per mile varies. It can cost between $1 million and 8 million per mile,” said Quinlan. “When you look at the economics of doing that on a system-wide basis, it's cost prohibited.”

Although there were no major complaints, Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said one area CL&P needs to make improvements to is technology. Specifically, he said he would like for the town's information system to be integrated with the power company's, allowing CL&P to see where there are downed trees and wires. Currently, Joseloff said that information has to be faxed to CL&P.

According to Quinlan, CL&P may be able to make use of integrated technology sometime next year.

"It is a focus of ours," he said.

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