December 16, 2018

Needleman Calls for Increased Staffing, Improved Response Times from Utility Companies

Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman

ESSEX — Today, March 12, in response to unacceptable and inadequate utility response time during power outages, Essex First Selectman and businessman Norm Needleman submitted public testimony in support of new proposed legislation to have utility companies increase staffing and equipment levels.

Senate Bill 329, An Act Concerning Minimum Utility Staffing and Equipment Levels, would require the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to initiate a docket and issue a final order regarding minimum utility staffing and equipment levels. The Authority was originally meant to create these minimum levels following Tropical Storm Irene, but has yet to finish its work.

Needleman, who is in his fourth term as Essex First Selectman, has seen the responses by the local utility company Eversource get slower and less efficient with every storm. His testimony, which was submitted to the Energy and Technology Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly, is detailed in the following paragraphs:

“In recent years, I have witnessed an alarming deterioration in response to power outages by Eversource, causing inordinate delays in power restoration to homes and businesses in Essex. It is my strong belief that this inadequate response to power outages is the result of two factors. First, Eversource has drastically reduced repair personnel and equipment, instead relying on resources from private contractors and service units from outside of their system.

Second, and equally alarming, is the lack of operating management oversight in directing and coordinating whatever resources are available.  Said another way, Eversource does not maintain staffing levels sufficient to provide adequate response to power outages, and they have failed to develop a communications and management system to direct the outside resources that eventually arrive.

This service problem is not confined to Essex. In consulting with officials in surrounding  towns, they have detailed their frustrations with prolonged power outages, inadequate staffing, and incorrect information from Eversource.”

Not only have I experienced these problems as a First Selectman trying to provide basic services to residents but also as a business owner and a household customer myself. My manufacturing plant in Michigan has lost power one time in 14 years and they have pretty drastic weather conditions, especially during the winter. Meanwhile, my manufacturing plant in Centerbrook loses power regularly and sometimes for no reason at all.

Considering we are paying one of the highest prices in the country for electricity we should have a world class system, not a third world system, which is what it feels like we have. The lack of reliable electricity is a serious deterrent for new businesses considering locating in Connecticut.

Repeatedly, Eversource has ignored their responsibilities by failing to implement effective weather-related response and repair. Instead, they have chosen to implement staff and equipment reductions to effect cost economies. As a matter of public safety, Eversource should be required to maintain adequate staffing and equipment levels. S.B. 329 will help remedy this crippling public utility problem.”

The 33rd State Senate District consists of the towns of Chester, Clinton, Colchester, Deep River, East Haddam, East Hampton, Essex, Haddam, Lyme, Portland, Westbrook, and a portion of Old Saybrook.

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