Last night there were “strangers in the night” present in Coventry. Their appearance had nothing to do with the old song and everything to do with electrical power. Right there on the stage of the high school lecture hall sat a panel of experts from CL&P along with State Representative Tim Ackert, Republican from Coventry.
Mr. Ackert arranged for the public hearing to allow local concerned citizens an opportunity to hear from the experts then voice local opinion on electrical power issues. Folks may have expected that these “strangers in the night” would deliver a song and dance routine skirting negativity concerning power restoration experienced after storm Alfred, when many local residences were without power over a week.
Instead of a song and dance the men and women of CL&P stepped up and admitted failure, provided considerable background on how large the problem really was and what changes are being made based on experience. There was no song and dance but the panel and all present learned something from the evening.
The members of the CL&P panel got questions about storm billing amounts on local bills from Christine Pattee, while John Rodick admonished the communications of CL&P with the public. One local resident and former CL&P employee Ray Chicoine suggested solutions to restoration problems learned from his experience during past events like hurricane Irene and a major ice storm. Mr. Chicoine also offered his assistance actually working in the field next time.
One local resident, Tom Pope presented a novel idea concerning CL&P developing a template of preferred zoning regulations designed to protect power lines from tree damage. Mr. Pope’s proposal included an incentive grant from CL&P to towns that adopt such zoning. The funding for the grant would come from savings and could be used by towns in any fashion. Mr. Pope said he could envision the grants being used for tree restoration in other areas of town or going to acquisition and maintenance of open space. He pointed out there would be tremendous cost savings in tree trimming and more reliability in power delivery for the community.
The magnitude of the past storm was “overwhelming” in the words of CL&P with over 121 miles of conductor replacement (wire), 1655 poles and 1964 transformers. It was pointed out that replacement time for poles is measured in hours not minutes and the task was enormous.
According to the two storm panel report distributed at the meeting, storm Irene in August took down about 2% of our trees. However with category 3 hurricanes such as that experienced in 1938 we could expect 70 -80% tree loss and power interruption lasting over a month in some areas. Clearly this points out the need to address the problem of tree damage during storms. We can take action for prevention or wait to pay for a cure after the next big storm.
Thanks should go out to Representative Ackert for his proactive approach to power issues, something that as an electrician he understands better than most from years of experience. The evening closed with both the panel from CL&P and the citizens attending learning more and working toward better power delivery and faster restoration during future storm situations.