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"They Can't Climb On A Roof In Newington And See What's Going On In Madison!"

Line crews in town are working, but there are not enough of them, soon enough. Officials say CL&P management's response in Madison following Superstorm Sandy is just not good enough.

 

State and town officials have expressed to CL&P, in very clear terms, their high level of frustration with the pace of power restoration in Madison. While town officials are asking for more resources, town workers including Madison Police Chief Jack Drumm are clearing limbs from trees tangled in wires--wires that they are _pretty sure__ are not live.

State Sen. Ed Meyer, in a meeting with town officials and CL&P representatives Friday morning at Madison town hall said the CL&P management response and that the pace of restoration are "unacceptable."

"They will be held accountable," Sen. Meyer said.

"Not time to be be pointing fingers"

State Rep. Noreen Kokoruda said following the meeting that "it's not time to be pointing fingers."

"I'm just proud of the way the Madison community is working together. We hope to be at 20 percent [without power] tonight. It is just not time to be pointing fingers. It's time to be working together," she said. "Our leadership has done a great job again."

Town officials told a CL&P representative they are specifically concerned about 94 spots in Madison where trees, tangled with power lines, need to be cleared. These spots were on a list of more than 150 provided to CL&P earlier this week. The town's public works employees, who stand ready to do the work, cannot do the work on the remaining spots until they know it's safe to work around the power lines tangled in the trees.

Selectmen say should have been more crews, more communication

Town officials say they are satisfied with the work done by the line crews who are in town working hard. But First Selectman Fillmore McPherson, Selectman Joan Walker, and Selectman Al Goldberg there should have been more crews earlier, and better communication between CL&P management and the town. Town officials asked for a CL&P representative to work side-by-side with town crews, to help town workers make sure the lines are safe, so that the remaining trouble spots can be cleared.

A representative from CL&P told town officials she would check with her supervisor to see if that could be arranged.

Madison Police Chief Jack Drumm said that just wasn't good enough and that there needs to be someone from CL&P at the town level able to make those kinds of decisions in times like this. "They can't climb on a roof in Newington and see what's happening in Madison," he said, referring to the town where CL&P has offices.

Police chief revs up the chain saw and goes to work

Following the meeting at town hall Friday morning, Drumm drove to one of the problem areas, on Harkness Road, off of Summer Hill Road. A huge tree was hanging on a power line, and tree limbs were extending into the street, creating a hazardous situation for anyone driving underneath.

Working with several other police officers and a member of the town's department of public works, Drumm climbed into the bucket of a payloader, with a chainsaw, and cleared the limbs that were hanging directly into the street.

After he was done with that job, I asked if he was sure the power line was dead. He just looked at me. He said he was working with the best information he had available at the time. He and his crew then moved on to the next problem area on the list.

State Sen. Ed Meyer's full response

Here is state Sen. Ed Meyer's full response to CL&P's restoration efforts in his district:

Meyer: CL&P Has Left too Many in the Dark

State Sen. Meyer Says Utility Response in Branford, Guilford and Madison Must Improve

State Senator Ed Meyer today expressed his growing frustration with Connecticut Light and Power’s efforts to restore power to residents of Branford, Guilford and Madison.  According to CL&P’s outage map, as of midday Friday November 2nd, nearly 50% of households in Guilford and Madison did not have power.  More than 20% of homes in Branford were still in the dark.

“Almost five days after the storm hit, far too many families are left in the dark,” said Meyer.  “It is unacceptable that power will not be restored until next week - especially in light of performance standards for utility companies that I fought for last session.”

Sen. Meyer has been meeting daily with CL&P representatives to monitor restoration work.

After conferring with Guilford First Selectman Joe Mazza and Madison First Selectman Fillmore McPherson, Senator Meyer stated that he will initiate public hearings to determine CL&P’s deficiencies after this latest storm.

“Tropical Storm Irene and the October snowstorm exposed major weaknesses in CL&P’s storm response plan,” said Meyer.  “After those storms and after Hurricane Sandy I have seen service trucks parked along the road, not doing anything because in both instances CL&P has been unable to give crews specific assignments. I’m afraid CL&P has not learned their lesson.”

Storm response legislation passed this year required the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to study and then establish minimum performance standards for emergency preparation and response for each electric distribution company and gas company in Connecticut. These standards addressed:

  • Minimum staffing and equipment levels for outage planning and restoration (linemen, technicians, etc)
  • Targets for recovery and restoration of service based on the proportion of affected customers
  • Mutual aid agreements with out-of-state companies to bring in surplus workers as needed
  • Communication between utilities and customers, including during non-business hours, and to notify the public of service restoration estimates and dangerous conditions
  • Communication between and amongst utilities and government officials
  • Tree-trimming practices to reduce outages due to fallen limbs
  • Safety standards for employees of each utility, mutual aid crews and private contractors

Noncompliance with PURA’s performance standards could result in penalties of up to 2.5 percent of an electric or gas company’s annual distribution revenue, approximately $25 million in the case of Connecticut Light & Power. The penalties would be assessed as a credit on customer bills, and would not be recoverable by the utilities through increased rates.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 6:27 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 with the comments of state Rep. Noreen Kokoruda, who attended the meeting in Madison town hall Friday morning.

Fred November 03, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Yes, there are a lot of trees. Yes, burying power lines would be very expensive. However, I believe CT has a large/dense enough population to warrant it. Are power lines underground in Denmark? If Denmark is twice the size of Massachusetts, and has underground power lines, wht can't CT?
Kokomo November 03, 2012 at 06:11 PM
might anyone know of conditions on Middle Beach Road West?
Mark Jones November 03, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Safety first in anything potentially deadly. When an accidental shooting occurs, the people involved usually say they didn't think the gun was loaded. That's why gun safety training preaches to always assume a gun is loaded and not to point it at anything you don't intent to shoot. Same idea behind electricity. I knew someone who was killed, indirectly by a high tension power wire. He touched a piece of metal that had been energized elsewhere with electricity. He didn't think it was charged. He additionally fell from where he was working. I actually never found out if it was the initial electrocution, fall, or both that killed him. All that really mattered was he was gone. That brings up another point for consideration. If the initial contact with electricity doesn't kill you, the fall can. Electrical current travels the path of least resistance to include tree sap, moisture or damp surfaces and through the human body. When your body conducts electricity you will collapse in the same manner people do from a police taser. Assume all power lines are live and leave any related maintenance work to the trained professionals. The risks just aren't worth the rewards. Watch how the trained and highly skilled Madison Fire Companies work around downed or damaged power lines. They set up a perimeter and keep their distance until the power company arrives and either kills the juice or verifies that it is safe. Any downed first responder isn't any help to victims, they hamper them.
Mark Jones November 05, 2012 at 01:41 AM
There should be no short cuts to safety. Period.
Beth Anderson November 06, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Today is the day to vote. I vote for safety!

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