"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.

Lance November 03, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Harkness - The sooner you realize that the Patch is not bound by journalistic standards really of any kind the sooner you can enjoy it for what it is which is local bulletin board and chat room ruled by Arriana Huffington and her local soldiers like Pem. Don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed.
Pem McNerney (Editor) November 03, 2012 at 03:31 AM
Ya wanna know what I think?!?!?!?! You asked for it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Here's what I think ... life is way too short to argue with people who hide behind fake names. (even though I probably will again someday. not tonight. and probably not this weekend either.) Here's the latest outage update from CL&P: Percent in the state without power: 9. Percent in Madison without power: 37. Number dead from Sandy: Nearly 100, could be more. Several people said to me that, being without power (and tv and internet), they had _no_ idea so many had died. Once they learned, they were still upset about being without power, but they did admit the tragic death toll ... is unimaginable. There was an unconfirmed report of a transformer fire around 9:20 p.m. near Fort Path Road. I hope we (including me) are all back with power soon. In the meantime, please stay safe this weekend. Stay away from downed wires. If traffic lights go out again or are still out, that means a four way stop.
Pem McNerney (Editor) November 03, 2012 at 03:43 AM
178 dead. 109 (and rising) in US. 69 (at least) in Caribbean.
Herb November 03, 2012 at 04:22 AM
Pem has hit the nail (solution) on the head!!! First, there is no reason why a CL&P leader can not be assigned to a town crew to travel from site to site and verify that the lines are de-energized. This can be safely done and the selected lines can be isolated from the main grid by opening up circuit breakers. The CL&P leader can then tell by metered measurement if there is any "back-feed" from home generators. At that point the tree work can safely proceed, and the town crew can move onto the next location having notified the CL&P repair crew -- the area is now ready for repair. Two birds with one stone -- the trees have been cleared for safe driving and the site is ready for repair. PLEASE - LETS JUST DO IT
Mark Jones November 03, 2012 at 09:19 AM
Making a bad situation potentially worse by not practicing what they preach. An accident waiting to happen at the tax payers expense due to a public official not being the brightest bulb in the pack, no pun intended. (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) The last thing we need in Madison are non-electrical certified, non-electrical licensed, non-electrical professionals working near and with high amperage electricity. That's basic electricity safety 101. Public officials continually post warnings about staying away from down trees and wires and then the police do the opposite. Leap first, think later, do as we say, not as we do. Just plain stupid conduct with no apparent supervision to dictate otherwise.
Mark Jones November 03, 2012 at 09:41 AM
The large tree sure appears to be hanging precariously on wires in the video plus in addition, 3 out of 4 town employees not wearing any safety helmets? Dumb, dumb, and dumber. The wires may look harmless but we are all taught from elementary school and on that they could easily be live, not grounded or energized at any point for a variety of reasons to include a home owners generator not properly installed / not properly being used, back feeding power into the power lines or a live electrical wire crossed over an otherwise dead wire way down the road, energizing it. Even a know telephone or cable wire can kill someone if a high power line is tangled with it someplace down the road. Guess these town employees must have missed those safety messages. Regardless, so much for common sense.
Pem McNerney (Editor) November 03, 2012 at 10:29 AM
I don't think it was an option to leave the tree hanging. It would have been best if CL&P had cleared it, or sent a line worker to work with the town crews, as the town requested. And, yes, these guys--all of them--should have been wearing personal protective equipment, and fire rated clothing if their job now requires them, following big storms, to mess with downed lines. That includes not only a hard hat, but safety glasses (I think the chief had these on, not sure), safety footwear (he did), properly rated rubber gloves (I don't think he did). Also, maybe hot sticks, which would allow them to test for voltage. And the necessary level of training to utilize it properly. Connecticut is a rubber glove state (according to a line worker I spoke with who is here form Alaska), so if the men and women from the Madison Police Department and the department of public works need to make these difficult decisions (their personal safety vs. that of the town residents), they should be issued this equipment and trained in its use. I find it hard to believe--and it makes me angry--that CL&P was not able to provide a line worker to work with the crew. "I'll check with my supervisor" is not an acceptable answer in a situation like this. I consider that a failure of management.
Pem McNerney (Editor) November 03, 2012 at 10:33 AM
MJ, you make a good point about the hard hats and PPE, but "dumb dumb and dumber" is a pretty harsh and unfair assessment of men who have been working non-stop with very little sleep to keep the town safe. I can only hope that you and others who are being so harsh in your comments online are not like that in real life, or that it's just the frustration of being without power so long that is making you sound unfair even as you sometimes make good points.
Brian November 03, 2012 at 10:44 AM
First Selectman makes me sick. This is on the town and we can't blame the utility company completely. One thing I am thankful for in this town is solid public safety. Thanks to Madison PD, NoMad Fire, MHC Fire and Madison EMS for outstanding service to our community during this disaster.
Pem McNerney (Editor) November 03, 2012 at 10:49 AM
Lance, you are right that Patch presents a new model of journalism that can be confusing to people used to old-school traditional journalism (which, much to my chagrin, is dying a slow and painful death. why we decided to give our content away for free is beyond me.) When I used to be city editor at The Courant, I used to practice the kind of journalism you may prefer, and which is still practiced at traditional papers--arms length and making an effort to sound entirely objective. I value traditional news sources like The Courant, The Register, The Day, and The Source and hope they survive and someday thrive again. At Patch, I try to balance traditional reporting with the reality that I am a resident of this town who, on very many levels, interacts with the people I report with every single day. I understand it can be confusing. Still, I'd rather that you know my biases and take them into consideration when you read my reporting. Patch is also unique in that it is a community platform which does incorporate elements of bulletin boards and chat rooms along with traditional news reporting. You, Lance, your mother, or anyone else in the community can use Patch to post news, opinion, events, letters to the editor. You can post directly, just like me. I hope that the wide range of voices on Patch in some way reflects the reality of the town.
Pem McNerney (Editor) November 03, 2012 at 10:54 AM
Oh wait ... I just looked at the video again ... the chief does have gloves on, don't know what they were made of ...
Mark Jones November 03, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Very good points that I didn't even think of. That's why you get the big bucks I guess. LOL, just kidding. I think your thoughts and suggestions need to go up the local Madiosn government food chain ASAP for consideration before the next weather event.
Mark Jones November 03, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Sorry for the harsh words. I just hate it when any leaders ( local town, state, fedearl, world) don't lead by example. I fear that copy cats will see this and think it is okay to go out and do their own thing with electrical wires and get hurt or killed as a result. Maybe you are right that my generator fumes may be getting to me.
Pem McNerney (Editor) November 03, 2012 at 11:13 AM
For those of you who would prefer our elected town officials foam at the mouth a little more, here is an article on the Guilford First Selectman's response: http://patch.com/A-zmCs.
Pem McNerney (Editor) November 03, 2012 at 11:17 AM
“Residents may have also noticed a higher number of utility trucks in Madison,” said Mazza. “But many of those trucks are coming straight from the distribution center that is located in Madison, and aren’t necessarily being deployed into that town.” Guilford is worried that Madison is getting more, Madison is worried that everyone else in the state is getting more. All I can say is that it's frustrating, but let's not take it out on the line workers. If they're working, let them do their work. If they are not actively engaged in working, thank them. When I asked some of the workers Friday morning (at the staging area before they headed out on their shift) how people in Madison were treating them ... I got dead silence.
Sadly No November 03, 2012 at 11:27 AM
When will the beaches be opened?
Pem McNerney (Editor) November 03, 2012 at 11:39 AM
SN: Context is everything, get used to it ... http://patch.com/A-zmRj
Pem McNerney (Editor) November 03, 2012 at 11:50 AM
@ MJ "I fear that copy cats will see this and think it is okay to go out and do their own thing with electrical wires and get hurt or killed as a result." Yes, please, please anyone who saw the video ... please do not think it's OK to cut trees tangled in downed wires. The chief, at least, presumably has access to the very latest updates from CL&P and has had experience dealing with downed wires from past storms. But unless someone is in a position to test the wire with rated equipment immediately before doing the work, there is no way of telling if someone on your block just flipped the switch on an improperly installed generator, thereby sending voltage up the line. As someone who had a transformer on the street outside the house where I am staying explode and arc, three times, sending sparks over the top of this huge center hall colonial (the earth moved and the house shook and not in a good way), I can now absolutely say firsthand there are few things more terrifying than untamed electricity.
Rich G November 03, 2012 at 12:08 PM
I was listening to NY Gov. Cuomo's press conference this week. He commended ConEd for their tireless work in NYC. He also threatened the state utilities with fines and decertification if they underperformed. Have our toothless politicians done similar things with CL&P and UI. Iris time for them to face some penalties for failing our residents once again
Rod November 03, 2012 at 12:38 PM
I guess the ol' adage rings true: "Talk is cheap"
Carolyn Murphy November 03, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Failure to get power restored by now is inexcusable. Having the very old and young (and everyone in between) exposed to these low temperatures for long stretches is inhumane. For all of the governor's bluster before and after the storm, utilities needed to get 5 times as many crews into the state to restore power.
Matt November 03, 2012 at 02:11 PM
If someone is suffering and freezing but refuses to go to a shelter, that is not CL&P's fault. Yes their management is abysmal. But they're not making you stay home and freeze either. There are shelters open for people to prevent this from happening. It has been widely publicized before and after the storm. If you're endangering yourselves or your family by sitting around freezing, that is on you. Take some personal responsibility and go help yourself.
Fred November 03, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Does anyone else find it ironic that one of the wealthiest States in the wealthiest nation in history is like a third world country in the aftermath of a storm? People living without power for days is disgraceful. I agree that blowhard, grandstanding politicians and other public officials taking potshots at utility companies aren't helping matters, irrespective of the apparent incompetence of those utility companies in responding to the storm. The question should be whether the State Public Utility Regulatory Agency has permitted those utility companies to charge their customers enough to permit necessary upgrades to equipment, together with improvements such as burying power lines, that will protect us for storms in the future. The environmental lobby, which has long been an impediment to upgrades to the power grid, is culpable also.
Sadly No November 03, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Oh thank god Mcpherson utilized the town resources at the beach rather then in the streets!
Liz November 03, 2012 at 05:30 PM
"Does anyone else find it ironic that one of the wealthiest States in the wealthiest nation in history is like a third world country in the aftermath of a storm? People living without power for days is disgraceful." I moved to Denmark recently and I had to explain this to my husband. The explanation is that unlike Denmark, which is about twice the size of Massachusetts, there is just way too much land to cover and sparse populations to put the wires underground. We also just have a ridiculous amount of trees that is not comparable to a country like England or Denmark. So, it is just something that has to be suffered through. It isn't nice, but burying lines in CT is just too massive and expensive of an undertaking. Also, the electricity rates in CT are already fairly high.
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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