CL&P commits to 39 new work crews to Greenwich, town frustration grows

As resident frustration grows, First Selectman Peter Tesei says more work crews from Connecticut Light & Power are on their way to Greenwich.

At a press briefing Thursday night, Mr. Tesei said that he had met with the utility’s senior management, including the company president, and that they had committed to bringing 14 additional two-person line crews starting on Thursday and then on Friday 25 more line crews. Another 25 crews are headed to Stamford.

Mr. Tesei said this came about after he presented to the management a list of all the areas in town that were not being addressed. He said the quality of the work has been good, but that the town was frustrated that more crews had not been deployed earlier.

“We wanted to clearly illustrate to them that we have, through our professional people, carefully assessed and documented areas that need their attention,” Mr. Tesei said. “The only way we’re going to get progress is if [CL&P] allocates more bodies. Speaking for the town and the residents, the satisfaction levels with [CL&P] are low.”

On Thursday there were 12 two-person line tree crews and 14 two-person line crews that CL&P said were in the area amidst growing resident impatience. Residents who have contacted the Post in both Glenville and Riverside have expressed that they have not seen any CL&P trucks in their neighborhoods as they have been left for days without power. As of Thursday evening, CL&P said that 15,820 customers were without power, representing 56% of the town.

There have been no specific estimates about when Greenwich residents will get their power back other than the CL&P estimate for the state that it expects 95% of service restored by Tuesday.

“We certainly appreciate the time they spent meeting with us, but seeing is believing and until we actually begin to see the boots on the ground and the application of resources, we will remain vigilant because we’ve been through this before,” Mr. Tesei said. “We’ve been given commitments before and they often have not been realized.”

Selectman Drew Marzullo said that he also met with the CL&P management and felt a lack of “empathy” from them.

“The criticism lodged at CL&P is rightly due,” Mr. Marzullo said. “They promised us more crews for tomorrow which is a good thing but the crews they’re promising us tomorrow should have been here yesterday and the day before.”

Selectmen David Theis also expressed frustration that commitments to bringing in additional personnel earlier had not been met. Mr. Theis said having the outage levels be at 60% Thursday morning and down only to 59% by the late afternoon “further validates our concerns.”

Mr. Tesei said that critical facilities such as nursing homes on King Street and a Greenwich Hospital satellite facility remain a priority for restorations as do the town shelters at the Bendheim Western Greenwich Civic Center and Eastern Middle School, both of which are running on generator power, and two town fire stations. But with many residents, including elderly people, without power and temperatures dropping at night, Mr. Tesei said that there were a lot of areas that had to be considered priorities now.

“Everyone gets to the boiling point after 24-48 hours and we’re doing our best to express that while at the same time remaining calm and unemotional about getting the job done,” Mr. Tesei said.

Town officials stressed that their complaints is not with the quality of the work, but rather in the amount of resources CL&P deployed to Greenwich especially when it had been clear the impact of the storm would be a heavy one. Mr. Tesei said he believed that pre-storm commitments from CL&P to have crews standing by to deploy to fix damage once the danger passed had not been met, but also praised those that were working in the town on power restoration.

“No one’s criticizing the guys doing the work,” Mr. Tesei said. “We’re thankful for the ones who are here and they’re doing a great job. We just want more of them.”

Town Emergency Management Director Daniel Warzoha said the current crews were working at “breakneck speed” to do restorations.

“They are doing a very, very good job,” Mr. Warzoha said. “If that pace continues it will certainly help the cause here.”

As part of the update, the emergency service chiefs spoke about the public safety aspect of the cleanup and Fire Chief Peter Siecienski said he was concerned about residents harming themselves with carbon monoxide poisoning. He said one resident had already received medical treatment after she left a car running in her garage and there were others doing dangerous things to create heat.

“People need to be very careful about how they’re handling their alternate heat sources,” Chief Siecienski said. “Impatience is a key word here. People need to understand. Carbon monoxide is a severe problem. It’s been a severe problem locally and in the state.”

Chief of Police James Heavey also warned residents to be on the lookout for people looking to take advantage of them by posing as FEMA agents. He said residents should request proper ID from anyone claiming to work for the town or for FEMA and said, if suspicious, residents can call police to verify things are on the level.

 

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