Garry Brumback said the efforts of the dedicated Connecticut Light & Power crew have been instrumental in addressing a continued list of problems with downed wires and road closures throughout the community.
The company’s effort on other levels, including communication, has been less than stellar.
Brumback had a conference with CL&P administrators Wednesday and sent a loud and clear message to the company that it must improve communications with the town and must commit more resources toward helping restore power to thousands of customers who have been left in the dark for days.
“We had candid and strong conversations with CL&P today,” Brumback said. “We made it clear that we have been disappointed in their communications…we told them the time for sending one or two crews into Southington is over. The recovery piece is complete and it’s time for them to focus on restoration.”
The largest utility company in the state has come under direct scrutiny from both state and local officials in recent days for failing to meet their promises in terms of power restoration after a rare October snowstorm left more than 830,000 without electricity.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said immediately following the storm that the damage left by the heavy snow and winds was among one of the worst natural disasters in state history.
But for local residents and officials who have seen little progress from CL&P prior to Wednesday, waiting for life to return to normal has worn on their patience. The frustration has led to direct concerns from many of the state’s local politicians.
In a meeting Tuesday night, and demanded further action from the utility giant, which responded to his concerns by promising they would have six crews assigned to Meriden on Wednesday.
“I want 30 crews here tomorrow, not six. I want 30,” Donovan told reporters after the closed-door meeting Tuesday night.
The criticism has put CL&P President and Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Butler on the defensive. Butler said Wednesday morning that his company was open in saying that it knew some would be without power for more than a week and has done everything it can to get power back to the state as quickly as possible.
Some may also take his comments as a blame shift for the response, however.
“We did plan for long-term outages. I did not expect it to be anywhere close to where almost a million of our discrete customers lost their power. Based on all the forecasts I saw and the snow that accumulated, I did not expect that,” Butler said.
Not only has the indirect communication led to criticism, but Butler has also been questioned for “empty promises” that the company has failed to meet.
that most towns would know by Tuesday morning when power would be restored and added that additional crews were on their way from places including “Tennessee and Missouri.” He estimated at that time that as many as 1,000 crews could be on the ground by Tuesday morning.
That didn’t happen.
“We’ve been disappointed by the amount of help we’ve actually received from outside the state,” Malloy told the press Wednesday. "We’ve been disappointed by the execution of promises that had been made (regarding restoration).”
Malloy added Wednesday that it was time to put pressure on CL&P to follow through with its responsibilities and get the job done.
Although the efforts have been disappointing so far, Brumback said his conversation and the pressure from the state has helped lead to a change in town – and that is very good news for local residents. There were 14 crews working directly on restoration efforts Wednesday and several additional crews were assigned to continue work overnight.
The efforts helped reduce the number of outages in Southington by more than 1,500 customers during the day Wednesday, but, as of 11 p.m., the town was back to 8,042 outages, according to CL&P outage maps. Across the state, 472,000 customers were still without power.
Brumback said much of the work Wednesday was preparation, however, and was hopeful that with most of the roads cleared, “thousands” could see their lights come back on Thursday.
“We have turned the corner, but it is still going to take some time,” Brumback said. “Turning the power back on is not as easy as just flipping a switch. We are still optimistic that several thousand customers will be turned back on tomorrow.”
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