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Marconi on CL&P: ‘Think outside the box’

The first selectman says CL&P needs to get creative.

Rudy Marconi: Grades for CL&P

An outspoken critic of CL&P’s disaster response last year, Ridgefield’s first selectman was initially impressed with utility this time around. But those good feelings wore off some seven days after Sandy tore through town, with power still to out to some Ridgefielders.

If the utility can’t significantly improve its restoration time after major storms, Rudy Marconi said Monday, it needs to get creative.

He suggests offering generators to all CL&P customers for a monthly fee.

While Mr. Marconi credits CL&P for embedding line crews with emergency responders before the storm struck to help respond to 911 calls, and for working quickly to get the Danbury Road corridor online, he criticized what he sees as a third lackluster response from the utility that promised and publicized a bolstered ability to mitigate storm damage.

“Our liaison was, I would say, an A+,” Mr. Marconi said doling out “grades” for CL&P’s response Monday afternoon, referring to the CL&P employee who acts as a go-between for the company and town emergency officials. “Their initial response to embed an emergency crew for us … an A.”

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Mr. Marconi would have given CL&P higher marks if it had crews here for non-emergency calls throughout the storm as long as it was not considered too dangerous to be outside.

“I think the preparation to bring crews into the area in advance was a C … that their public relations effort was a C- in advance of the storm because so many of us felt that we were incorrectly informed.”

Mr. Marconi said that CL&P switched from presenting their response in terms of number of crews in the state to number of workers in the state. He stopped short of saying that he and other municipal leaders from the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials (HVCEO) were intentionally misled.

“Initially when we were told that we had 400 crews in Connecticut ready to respond to the storm,” he said. “It wasn’t crews; it was linemen.”

In the past two storms, Mr. Marconi said, the figure he and other municipal leaders had had been crews. Mr. Marconi said other HVCEO leaders felt they had been misinformed.

To handle major storms like the last three, Mr. Marconi said, the town needs 50 crews immediately to have an adequate response. This, he said, was based on the microbursts a few years ago that did serious but isolated damage in Ridgefield. Since the town was then able to get many crews, he said the response time was adequate.

But after the last few storms, crews have trickled into town in the days after the storm, ultimately numbering more than 100 as they were freed up from other areas.

“We know we need … at least 50 crews in town” after a major storm, Mr. Marconi said. “If that doesn’t happen, what can you do to give your customers — your clients — a sense of satisfaction in being without power which is your product?”

Mr. Marconi suggested a plan where CL&P offers customers a generator supplied and installed to handle a customer’s basic needs, like heat, hot water and some lighting, paid for with a monthly fee.

“This company has to be more creative and think outside the box,” Mr. Marconi said.

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  • rdg-oldtimer

    Jake, what about a story concerning the reason why there are still un-insulated primary cables throughout town? For example, you can clearly see the old cables on West Lane between R35 and Cedar Lane. A tree can rest on “storm” , insulated cables, without blowing the breakers.

  • Kirk

    I think our 1st Selectman would be better served by assessing the performance and response of what he does have responsibility for … the Town crews. Where were they?
    Didn’t see a Town truck for days after the storm …

  • Miss Gooch

    Cut back and remove trees away from the wires, put new wires underground. Will this prevent power outages entirely? No, but it will a. decrease the number of wires being pulled down by trees/branches, b. decrease the need for special crews to remove fallen trees/branches, c. help to restore power sooner.

    Why does this town insist on having trees and branches so close to the wires, often tangled in with them?

  • Secondhand Rose

    If the town (and all surrounding towns) had bothered to truly clean up from the freak surprise snowstorm last October 2011, when there was a plethora of trees that fell over, snapped off halfway up, or had many broken branches that were left dangling, there might not have been such terrible power outages this time around.

    Driving around on Tuesday afternoon after the storm abated, the bulk of the trees that did the most damage were pine trees. Yes, a lot of hardwoods were completely uprooted, but if you compare the amount of pine trees snapped off versus hardwoods that fell over, my guess is that the pine trees would win out. So – why not cut down all the tall-growing pine trees, and replace them with bushier, slower-growing, smaller pine trees that won’t grow above 20 feet?

    As for putting the lines underground, gee, that helped New York a lot, right?

  • Miss Gooch

    Rose, the sarcasm isn’t necessary or helpful. And actually, the underground wires DID help restore power faster to parts of NYC. As I wrote above, it won’t solve all of the problems but it will help. I work with a woman from India. She lives in an area with underground wires. Her comment to me was that when she sees the phone poles and wires, it reminds her of when she lived in India. That says a lot.

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