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Town Leaders Say Eversource Tightlipped On Restoration Plans

Line workers in Rocky Hill after Tropical Storm Isaias
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public Radio
Workers with Asplundh Construction repair electrical lines along Main Street in Rocky Hill two days after Tropical Storm Isaias uprooted trees and left hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents without power.

It’s now been three days since many Connecticut residents and businesses lost power in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias. And leaders of local municipalities are increasingly frustrated with power companies keeping them in the dark – in more ways than one.

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On Friday afternoon, Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi still had 65 percent of the Eversource customers in his town without power.

“It is one of the most disturbing, inexcusable, unacceptable ways to handle a situation I’ve ever been involved with,” Marconi said

Back when Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, a liaison assigned to him by Connecticut Light & Power answered his power restoration-related questions. He said in dealing with Eversource for this storm, the liason’s got nothing for him.

“It used to be we had great communication and if we told we were only getting six trucks the next day, yeah we pounded our chest and yelled and hollered," he said, "but, we were being communicated with. Today, I have been told that the liasons -- with all the trucks coming to our area to address our problem -- that they are not allowed to discuss with the municipality the allocation of those resources.”

Joe Delong, the executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municpalities, said Marconi isn’t the only one stewing at the moment.

“Municipal CEOs were reaching out to their point of contact and the liason was telling them ‘we don’t know. We don’t have any answers for you. We don’t know when help is on the way. We don’t know when your projects are going to be prioritized.'" he said. "It really was a big setback in communications that we’ve seen for the most part across the state.”

But those claims are refuted by Eversource.

President of regional electric operations Craig Hallstrom told Connecticut Public Radio the company is talking.

“We’re updating our state officials and our community officials a couple of times a day so they understand what we’re doing and they have the information that they need to communicate with their stakeholders,” he said after a press conference at the utilty's Berlin headquarters.

In addition to the communication issue with Eversource, Marconi’s got a big problem with the company’s back-and-forth with mutual aid crews who are coming in from out of state.

Marconi said Thursday at noon he spoke to a foreman who told him they could clear debris near Rt. 35 in a matter of minutes – but that Eversource hadn’t yet approved it. More than seven hours later, the crew was still there and Marconi said nothing had been done.

Gov. Ned Lamont also continued Friday to express his frustration with the utility.

“I am shocked that Eversource said we’ll try and give you a town-by-town breakout about how we are going to get your electricity resolved tomorrow," he said while touring hard hit Westport. "Tomorrow. You can’t tell us when my town will get electricity until tomorrow?”

But Eversource still maintains it's addressing outages as fast as it can. As of Friday afternoon, more than 400,000 of the utility's customers remained without power.

At the Berlin press conference, Craig Hallstrom said that means crews have restored power to around 550,000 homes and businesses.

"Today we have about 1,200 crews that are working on restoration. We have another 500 or so that will be in later today, and another big wave tomorrow," he said. "So by the end of tomorrow, we'll have upwards of 2,000 crews on this restoration, focused on getting this done."

Meanwhile, United Illuminating reports about 800 crews are now in the field and it’s restored power to roughly two-thirds of the customers who lost service in the storm.

WSHU's Ebong Udoma contributed to this report.

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