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First Selectman Blasts CL&P for Slow Response

There are seven trucks in Monroe today, but First Selectman Steve Vavrek said CL&P only assessed the town's situation of massive power outages during the first two days.

Police officers are leading Connecticut Light & Power Co. crews to Monroe's hardest hit areas today with a concentration on Barn Hill Road, Elm Street and East Village Road, according to First Selectman Steve Vavrek, who estimates that just under 70 percent of the town is still without power in the wake of Saturday's rare October snowstorm.

He also complimented Department of Public Works crews for plowing snow during the storm then removing trees and debris from town roadways. However, he blasted CL&P for merely evaluating Monroe's situation for the first two days before attempting to make serious repairs.

"I got calls from lines people saying they were waiting for calls," Vavrek said during an interview in his Monroe Town Hall office Tuesday afternoon. "CL&P has been a complete and utter disaster. All they told us is that they were assessing and evaluating the lay of the land."

First Vavrek said he was told there was one emergency crew, then two, then back to one. He said the first CL&P liaisson was giving him bad information. "I hung up on him," Vavrek said.

Now Monroe has Alan Price, the same liaisson it had during Tropical Storm Irene, according to Vavrek. "He started getting us more trucks," Vavrek said.

The first selectman said he could understand a need to evaluate and assess Monroe if storm Irene had not been so recent.

Though the first selectman conceded that much of the state had been hit hard by the power outages, he expressed his belief that CL&P should have been better prepared.

"This is a CL&P regional disaster," he said. "They did not do the job. Everybody knew it was coming. Our staff and the DPW were ready, and to have two days to assess when they knew about it ..."

Vavrek doubts the accuracy of CL&P's outage numbers, but encourages residents to call the power company to complain about its response.

Some have noticed a lot of trucks in neighboring Newtown, but Vavrek said that is because it is the location of CL&P's distribution center.

As the line crews work, Vavrek reminds residents that some neighborhoods could temporarily lose power while another area is being fixed.

A Resilient Town

The first selectman praised the work of Edith Wheeler Memorial Library Dir. Margaret Borchers, children's librarian Libby Mueller and their staff for showing movies to visitors spending time at the library, which is being used as a warming center and had previously been used as a shelter.

Monroe Senior Center Dir. Barbara Yeager and her staff have been serving meals to people staying there, according to Vavrek. The senior center has been used as a warming center and emergency shelter throughout.

He also praised Monroe Public Schools administrators for working closely with the town at this time, and said Board of Education custodians have been assisting the town.

CL&P had initially estimated that it would take a week or longer to restore power to all of Monroe and Vavrek had no revised estimate Tuesday.

He said the town's emergency response team has worked to ensure that all shelters are stocked with food and commended volunteers who have pitched in to help others.

"We're a very resilient town," Vavrek said.

The first selectman encourages anyone who wants information about the power outages to call his town hall office at (203) 452-2821.

john roberge November 02, 2011 at 12:27 AM
Mike, your questions should of been answered after Irene! Hovey plays Monopoly- Park Place , Boardwalk, and Utilities!!!
Mickey Spillane November 02, 2011 at 12:32 AM
Where was Vavrek's outrage after Irene hit? He praised CL&P in his listserv. Vavrek goes on to disparage Kansky for describing CL&P as inadequate. Now 4 days after we get slammed with this storm he decides to hang up the phone on CL&P. How about some leadership,
john roberge November 02, 2011 at 12:39 AM
That's shaking it up- well said!
Karen G. French November 02, 2011 at 12:48 AM
When the utility companies downsized their work force to a skeleton crew to continue making profits for shareholders, it causes them to call in crews from many states away. Improving their "communication process" does nothing to heat & feed families. Another undue expense on the already strapped unemployed people of the northeast.
Life By The Green November 02, 2011 at 01:12 AM
Only on the Patch would you find people blaming the local First Selectman for problems with a company that each griping author has an individual relationship with and is regulated by a state agency. If you really want change, appear before the DPUC recertification board with a petition. If you want bigger change, speak to your Congressman and Sentaors about opening up electrical utilities to real competetion for generation and transmission. Griping at the local level will get you no where in this case.
john roberge November 02, 2011 at 01:19 AM
So why do we have local leadership? Is this the wild west Ms Green?
Debbie Wasserstein November 02, 2011 at 01:22 AM
I would like to commend Steve Vavrek and the rest of the town. I am frustrated with CL&P but the town, police officers and other public works departments have done a superb job removing road debris and marking off clearly unsafe areas. I further commend those who put their lives on the line to make this happen. As a Monroe resident I commend, and am proud of you
Joey November 02, 2011 at 01:23 AM
Life by Green - Vavrek made this a political issue when he called out Kansky for being critical of CL&P.
Joey November 02, 2011 at 01:26 AM
Debbie - do you live in Monroe? There are still trees blocking some streets.
Karen G. French November 02, 2011 at 01:28 AM
I agree with Debbie as I applauded the towns response to this disaster also. We should be like it used to be before de regulation and be like Wallingford and have our own electric co. We need to go back to that. More choices.
Joey November 02, 2011 at 01:33 AM
What exactly are you applauding Karen? Vavrek hanging up the phone on CL&P. Or Vavrek refusing to hold CL&P accountable - until a couple hours ago.
Jolly Green November 02, 2011 at 01:49 AM
A hurricane hits and Vavrek's response was to praise CL&P. A snow storm comes and downs trees and power lines. Vavrek's response was to hang up the phone on CL&P. You can't make this stuff up.
Karen G. French November 02, 2011 at 02:00 AM
Not that I need to explain myself to you. Read it again. "I applauded the towns response to this disaster" ie , fire, police, emergency responders etc..Take a pill.
karen c November 02, 2011 at 02:09 AM
You all seem to have all the answers what are any of you doing about it? Are you going to run to lead this town? Quit your belly aching, get off your soap boxes and go out and make a difference for our town.
QWERTY November 02, 2011 at 04:31 AM
What is there to do? "tree trimming" is only an issue the week after a major storm. Other than that, no one is going to care, citizens included. Most politicians are reactive, not proactive. If Vavrek blows $1 million on tree trimming then you have opponents calling it a waste of money as preventative maintenance doesn't have an obvious, direct or immediate benefit. This town is hell bent on education. Try telling a soccer mom that her little princess isn't getting an education budget increase because that money is going to bury power lines along main roadways...not going to happen. Sorry to be blunt, but it's the truth. And we can't expect the taxpayer to fund a 10%, 15%, 20% increase in spending for everything.
DBACK November 02, 2011 at 02:15 PM
Guess I don't need to pay me electric bill right now. What are they going to do shut my electricity off......
Cindy November 02, 2011 at 04:14 PM
I would agree with all of the comments but remember from Irene that UI does not have the same amount of customers. Still they knew the storm was coming and should have prepared better. I also heard that the emergency crews from other states went elsewhere because CL&P did not pay them from Irene. I hope this is not true. It would be nice to fine CL&P and even better MAKE them come out to all the roads in Monroe and cut down the trees that are too close to wires. We will have more storms and much colder temps in a fews months. I hope they get their pathetic butts in gear!!!
Alan Newton November 02, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Steve, if you want my vote, you will peition for UI to take over Monroe and kick CL&P out. Trumbull has power and we don't? Wallingofrd has their own power company and they have power. These guys spent 2 days "surveying monroe". They were just here 2 months ago. They should know where to go. Plus, 25 was shut down for 2 days becuase of this nonsense. I am a patient guy, but this is getting ridiculous. You can only take so much before you say enough is enough. CL&P should be sent a message. You say we are resilient and we are, but we aren't stupid and can't be pushed around. Push for a new power company. UI is a much better option at this point.
Vera Karger November 02, 2011 at 11:30 PM
Unfortunately, LifeByTheGreen, this doesn't happen only on Patch. See the CT Post. Debbie Wasserstein: I join in your commendation. This storm resulted in mile after mile of downed limbs, trees & wires. Cleaning up does, indeed, require evaluating for prioritization, taking into consideration the most dangerous debris fields vs the least dangerous. It would be pointless to do otherwise. With all the armchair supervisors on the attack here, it's a surprise that any CL&P workmen came to work at all in Monroe.
Vera Karger November 02, 2011 at 11:49 PM
UI: 325,000 customers. CL&P: 1.2 MILLION customers in 149 communities. Which do you think might take longer to implement service restoration? Yes, some of you seem to think that each of 149 communities should have its own Restoration Battalion. That happens in children's books.
Dee Dee November 02, 2011 at 11:59 PM
Mas Electric 1.275 million customers served only 111,000 or less than 10% left to restore. Lower utility rates too!
Vera Karger November 03, 2011 at 12:04 AM
Alan ~ How does surveying Monroe for creating action prioritization for hurricane Irene, help in evaluating the extent of destruction of the October snow storm? What commonsensical person would base their vote for First Selectman on whether or not he plans to take the action you suggest? Mr. Vavrek has managed this town well. Even the CT Post endorses him for re-election, & the Post isn't notable for leaning Republican. Personally, I'm enjoying the new roads, the community spirit Mr. Vavrek works hard at generating, the informative emails & monthly reports, his open door policy, etc. As UI services customers in the thousands & CL&P in the millions, how do you judge that UI would do a better job?
dolphinlover November 03, 2011 at 12:22 AM
It seems to me that a very large problem in Monroe is the amount of trees that are in close proximity to the power lines. Last year CL&P asked us to trim our trees. I was happy to let them, thinking that they would also trim the ones very close to our power lines. They did not, all they trimmed were a few branches at the top of the trees. If they went and trimmed or cut down all trees within 15-20ft of the power lines maybe this would help. I would gladly let them take down any tree on my property that might affect a power loss. Last time we lost power for 7 days and lost all our food, thankfully this time we got our power back early this am, with no food loss, because we were able to borrow a generator. Maybe our officials should look into this avenue and encourage everyone to comply with this, after all isn't the first 10 or 20 ft of our property considered to be owned by the town?
john roberge November 03, 2011 at 12:38 AM
nice job lately, but don't take any kudo's for your efforts Mr. Vavrek. I was at the library on Sunday when you informed everyone power would be out for 7 or more days per your talk with CL&P. I was hoping to hear a town leader sar to CL&P "this is totally unacceptable- I will not stand for this delay" Tuesday you complained and hung up on CL&P. Lead, follow or get out of the way!
FredDudley November 03, 2011 at 01:24 AM
Lori, I work in New Canaan and it's a serious issue there too
dolphinlover November 03, 2011 at 02:04 AM
I read somewhere that we are the state with the 2nd most trees. Maine is first. Obviously something has to be done and quickly before we have a nasty ice storm this winter and have to endure this all over again
monroe taxpayer November 03, 2011 at 03:31 AM
Wall Street Journal describes the problem http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203804204577014290229234100.html
Stephanie G November 03, 2011 at 02:45 PM
My husband shared an interesting story with me last night. One of his colleagues lives in Fairfield, and is therefore a UI customer. They never lost power, but on Monday, he realized that there was a tree limb hanging on a wire in front of his house. He called UI to tell them and said that it wasn't an emergency, he just wanted to let them know. Within 25 minutes, he had THREE UI trucks sitting in front of his house, with two workers per truck. They checked the wire and said that it wasn't theirs and belonged to either Cablevision or AT&T. They then proceeded to sit in front of his house with their trucks idling for THREE hours, not doing anything. Wasn't UI supposed to send their crews to help out CL&P customers once they were finished with their own outages? It's just conjecture on my part, but is this another case of CL&P not having paid for assistance during Irene and therefore, nobody being in a rush to come lend assistance again? Meanwhile, I seem to trip over AT&T trucks during these storm cleanups - they have folks everywhere. How are they able to deploy people adequately? We lost our U-verse service on Sunday afternoon and on Monday morning, they had a worker at a nearby pole using his truck to charge the batteries of their equipment until their backup generators arrived in the area.
captrips November 03, 2011 at 02:51 PM
From the category of, "the corpse from the snowstorm isn't even cold yet and Northeast Utilities is already hinting at rate hikes..." CL&P/Northeast Utilities has ZERO CONSCIENCE. Read today's CT Post where they are quoting storm costs and already reassuring shareholders. "Butler said Thursday the storm will cost $100 million to cleanup, on top of a $100 million bill the utility has from Tropical Storm Irene. Parent company Northeast Utilities told investor analysts in September that ratepayers, not investors, will pay for the Irene-related cleanup. It's standard in the industry for ratepayers to pay operating costs such as electrical restoration." Can you believe the unmitigated gall of these people? We pay the highest electric rates in the contiguous 48 states, CL&P has failed miserably 2X in 2 months and they are being attacked on all fronts and they publicly state this? A total disregard for government and consumers and no insight or worry on the public relations front.
Alan Newton November 03, 2011 at 02:59 PM
The point is that trumbull is one twon over and they had little affected by this storm. CL&P is responsible for line maintenance and trees iin close proximity. They did nothing since the hurricane and now this occurred. CL&P should be hit where it hurts, in the wallet. We pay the 3rd highest rates in the United States, Hawaii and Alaska are first. Why not ask for a change? CL&P is clearly not doing their job. 6 days without power, is that acceptable to you? What about our wonderful GOV. Malloy. backing CL&P. Not backing legislature to hold CL&P accountable for their actions and Imposing fines etc. Thank you for the story Stephanie. It was very helpful. UI is excellent and they aren't stupid either. If you won't get paid, why help?

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