It's been a long and frustrating few days for First Selectman Pat Llodra as she has tried to get Connecticut Light & Power to send more workers to Newtown.
CL&P crews first came into town late Sunday after mistakenly traveling to Turkey Roost Road in Monroe rather than Turkey Hill Road in Newtown where they were requested, Llodra said. By the time the crews arrived in Newtown, it was after 3 p.m.
before calling it a day at about 2 a.m., officials said. The problem, however, was that it took more than 12 hours for another crew to be sent back into town, and that was only after she went to complain in person, Llodra said.
The first selectman said that a CL&P liasion promised that the workers would be back in town early Monday, but there were no signs of the workers by the time 2 p.m. rolled around. Llodra said she finally grew so upset after she could not get anyone on the telephone that she drove down to the CL&P site in Hawleyville, furious about the lack of workers in town, she said.
“I thought that was the height of insult,” Llodra said.
About a half hour after exchanging words with CL&P representatives, who told her there was a lack of crews in the region, utility workers finally arrived in town, she said.
Part of the frustration was that on Monday morning, CL&P President Jeff Butler and state officials said that 550 crews were expected in the state and that every town would have at least one crew – no one said there would be a delay before they arrived, Llodra said.
“It’s exhausting to do battle with them,” she said of CL&P. “They are not doing their part.”
CL&P spokesman Mitch Gross said that the 500 crews were in the state Monday and that 845 were slated in the state on Tuesday and more than 1,000 on Wednesday.
“It’s a 24 hour operation,” he said, reiterating Butler's statement that there is at least one crew working in each town.
Gross said he could not address the problems raised by Llodra.
“We’ve got plenty of work ahead of us," he said. "I can’t address what is happening in Newtown.”
Llodra said she has been trying to raise the profile of Newtown, as a way of getting more crews into town.
She has invited for crews who will be sent to work all throughout the southwest Connecticut – not just Newtown – in a gesture that she said she hopes will garner the town better service from CL&P.
“We want to have some consideration for having those trucks,” she said.
As of late Monday, 95-percent of the town – or 10,414 homes and businesses – remained without power.
Despite some of the frustrations of the past few days, six line and tree crews have been assigned to Newtown with the goal of working overnight Monday to clear downed wires and trees along Route 34 to Main Street – work that is in preparation for later restoration, Llodra said. That particular circuit is important because it powers Garner Correctional Facility, wastewater treatment and all of the homes and business in the Main Street vicinity.
Crews also were expected to have worked on clearing Walnut Tree and School House Hill roads and to open up a blocked Great Quarter Road Monday night, Llodra said.
The first selectman said she and Rep. Chris Lyddy (D-106) have invited U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) to Tuesday morning's emergency operations center meeting so that Murphy can get an idea of what is happening at the town level, with the hope that also will raise Newtown’s profile.
Meanwhile, school is canceled through Wednesday and town officials hope to determine whether all roadways are passable and power can be restored to school buildings by Thursday – two conditions that must exist before classes can resume, officials said.
Having gone through Tropical Storm Irene, Llodra said she is concerned about the length and current pace of restoration, particularly with the cold temperatures.
“The longer this takes, the more this wears people out,” she said.
Officials are taking steps to check on frail and elderly residents. For instance, a town police officer went door to door at Nunnawauk Meadows, a federal senior housing facility, to check on residents and encourage them to go to the shelter at Newtown Middle School, including providing the transport.
“You really want people to get out of their cold houses,” Llodra said.
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