power outages

Bethel Official Calls Out Eversource for Lack of Town, PD Power

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The Bethel Police Department finally had power restored Monday, six days after Tropical Storm Isaias. The department ran on a generator and First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker said the delay is unacceptable.

“We have been calling and calling and calling and saying right here in our very critical department that our community relies on, they could not get power,” said Knickerbocker.

The power was restored Monday during an interview with NBC Connecticut. Until then, the generator was the only lifeline between the police and the people they serve.

“It’s designed to last two or three days; however, they just make sure we have fuel,” said Chief Stephen Pugner. The town made sure it was topped off every day.

The loss of power kicked the non-emergency phone lines over to a separate generator that didn’t hold up.

“We’ve had up to 10 times last week that our phones have been out altogether,” said Pugner.

NBC Connecticut spotted a crew outside the station just before speaking with Pugner and Knickerbocker. The first selectman said it’s only because they found a different number to try to reach someone at Eversource. The power company told him they weren’t aware of the problem.

The first “Make Safe” crew to assess down powerlines showed up Friday. The town said it was a total of 15 hours of work to check the lines so public works crews could start clearing the streets.

“They can’t touch any of those trees on the lines until we’re 100 percent positive there isn’t any energy to those lines,” said Pugner.

Now that the streets are clear, Knickerbocker is frustrated the process to restore power is slow. He said all of it – from the police department to the residents -- should have been avoided.

“This is my fifth major storm and I and have to say this is the worst performance by Eversource that I have seen so far,” said Knickerbocker.

The same outage outrage holds true for much of the 3,000 people in town still in the dark.

Facing mounting criticism as customers remained without power nearly a week after Tropical Storm Isaias, Eversource defended its storm response on Monday.

 “We lost a fridge and a big fridge with a freezer and then we have a full standalone freezer. I probably lost $2,000 worth of food alone,” said Bethel resident Marilyn, who declined to give her last name.

She expected power to be out for about a few hours. She said she’s furious with Eversource.

“They are supposed to be improving the infrastructure after Sandy and this is worse than Sandy, this is worse than anything we’ve ever had,” she said.

Knickerbocker said he’s heard stories like hers from around town, and that Eversource should step up.

“Her homeowners’ insurance is only going to reimburse her by $500. What do we tell those people? Why doesn’t Eversource pick up the bill for that because they blew this so badly?” asked Knickerbocker.  

While they wait, the middle school is now a place for people to shower, charge their devices and cool off while trying to keep cool heads.

But Knickerbocker said that effort will only be helped by an Eversource investigation by PURA.

“They’ve paid millions of dollars in bonuses, they’ve cut costs by laying off linemen, and now they’re unprepared for this and that’s on them. It’s shameful, really shameful.”

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