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Norwalk Politicians Keep the Heat on CL&P

NORWALK, Conn. – The number of Norwalkers without power has dropped dramatically since the surprise October snowstorm damaged lines Saturday, but Mayor Richard Moccia thinks Connecticut Power & Light could do better.

Moccia is unhappy that CL&P waited to bring in extra help until after the storm hit, the same complaint he made after Hurricane Irene blasted through in late August. A CL&P spokeswoman disputed that idea, but she was open to a suggestion from the mayor: make use of retirees.

"They have to do something about having more standby crews available," Moccia said. "Maybe they can talk to some of their unions and their retired union guys, that kept their license up and their training, and keep them on a standby basis and alert them that the storm is coming. You might have to pay them for being on standby but at least you've got crews here. You don't have to bring them from Ohio."

"We certainly appreciate the suggestion," said Katie Blint, a CL&P spokeswoman. "I'm sure that it's something that we would consider to some degree. Retirees are a great resource for many utilities, and it could be a very important role that they play. That's an excellent idea."

"I don't think the unions would argue with their fellow former union members on a part-time basis, they're still getting overtime, and get the work done faster," Moccia said. "But – they have a responsibility to stockholders but they also have a responsibility to the citizens of this state and many of the stockholders are citizens of the state."

Moccia said the idea came up during a conversation with state Sen. Bob Duff. Duff agreed the pair had talked but said he didn't want to comment until power was restored to the towns he represents: Norwalk and Darien. "I want to see how quickly they move between now and the end of the week in power restoration," he said. "At that point I'll have further comments."

Blint did not agree that CL&P could have been better prepared. "This is something that was of a greater magnitude than was forecast," she said. "I think we were all surprised at the magnitude of this storm. You can't really foresee the extensive tree damage. The DOT has told us that they estimate the tree damage of this storm as five times greater than Storm Irene. That's a difficult thing to forecast."

Gov. Dannel Malloy expressed frustration Wednesday that power companies in other states are not sending the help they promised. Blint expressed frustration, too. "I think you can make the call, ask for the help, if you don't get the help that's promised to you just continue to make the calls and do the best possible job you can," she said.

Duff said he was waiting to see whether CL&P learned anything from Irene. "Hopefully there have been lessons learned," he said. "But I will say that six weeks between each storm is not a lot of time to make changes, which is why I'm going to wait and see if any of those lessons learned have been applied in this storm."

As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, there were 1,033 Norwalk homes without power , or 3 percent of CL&P's customers here. The company expects to have everyone back online by midnight Friday.

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