Farmington Valley town officials, as well as U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5, voiced their frustration with Connecticut Light & Power’s response to the week-long power outage crisis at an afternoon news conference today.
According to Canton First Selectman Dick Barlow, 52 percent of the residents throughout the valley towns remained without power as of 1:28 p.m. Sunday. Avon held at 46 percent, Canton at 39 percent, Farmington at 66 percent, Granby at 36 percent, and Simsbury at 53 percent. CL&P’s goal of total restoration for all towns in Connecticut has been pushed to Wednesday before midnight.
Barlow noted that the figures provided to town officials by CL&P have been fluctuating wildly, with the provided explanation from the power company being that the computer reading the circuits could not be counted on to be accurate.
“The one frustration that we have is that we do not have what we feel is accurate information, timely information,” Barlow said.
He continued to say that CL&P’s reported numbers of crews working to restore power have been similarly unreliable. Barlow said that CL&P told him that 35 crews were working in Canton Saturday, while the actual number had been five. Only 11 crews were working in Canton Sunday.
Murphy took the podium to extol the fortitude displayed by the valley towns as well as to announce that there are at least three investigations either underway or being requested to examine what went wrong in the process of restoring power to the Farmington Valley. Confirmed investigations included one by the state of Connecticut, one by the attorney general and one requested by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
“We are going to need to hear, loud and clear, both the empirical and anecdotal evidence of what went wrong here in the Farmington Valley, and I look forward to being part of that process,” he said.
Murphy said that next steps following complete restoration would be to make sure Farmington Valley taxpayers have been compensated for the incredible expense incurred due to the storm. He said that the attorney general will examine as to whether CL&P has any responsibility to help towns and individuals pay for the cleanup process.
Murphy also said that there is a federal disaster process underway that may lead to federal funds being funneled into Connecticut towns to help pay for shelter operations and other extraordinary emergency response measures. Murphy said that he was working to make sure that every eligible cost would be covered by FEMA’s emergency disaster declaration process.
Avon Town Council Chairman Mark Zacchio addressed the issue of school openings. Avon schools will be closed through Tuesday at the least. Simsbury, Farmington and Granby schools will be closed through at least Monday. Canton schools open again on Monday, following an assessment of roadways conducted Sunday.
Avon Town Manager Brandon Robertson said that shelters will remain open until no longer needed. Shelter locations include Avon High School, the Canton Community Center, Farmington High School, the Granby Senior Center and the First Congregational Church of Simsbury.
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Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman said that Farmington Valley town officials will focus their efforts on next steps and contingency plans for the coming days. Granby Town Manager Bill Smith said that the towns will have to look at regional sheltering going forward and “piggybacking” with other communities to assist each other. Communication efforts between utility
companies and towns will also have to be reinforced in the future.
“I do believe we need to have an oversight review to seriously look at why this has occurred and so it will never happen again, even if we have an emergency that is not nearly as bad as this one,” Smith said.
Farmington Town Council Chairman Mike Clark emphasized this aspect of the crisis, noting the problems caused across towns by CL&P’s delayed responses.
“We need accurate information, from the power companies, from … AT&T and Comcast as well, so that we can pass that information on to our constituents,” he said.
Clark also noted potential issues with the “Scotch tape” approach CL&P took to some repairs, with workarounds used by the company in Farmington actually causing a rise in power outages over the weekend.
“What we have in place today, the response of CLP [sic], we all feel is what we should have had in place on Monday,” he said.