President Barack Obama joined a conference call with local elected officials, utility executives, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Thursday afternoon as the state’s mayors and first selectmen voiced their dissatisfaction with the pace of storm recovery.
He took a few questions and heard a few frustrations, Malloy said.
“Their were some frustrations expressed about people being without power — that’s the biggest issue,” Malloy said as he toured the National Guard’s commodities distribution center at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
Malloy said he is annoyed that some of the information being provided to local officials by the utilities isn’t always the most reliable in terms of how many crews are in each town or where those crews are located. It was a complaint the state heard during last year’s storms and after a year of preparation and legislation there still seem to be some kinks that need to be worked out.
Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating have said a majority of their customers will see their power restored by Monday or Tuesday next week.
“I have communicated to both companies in blunt fashion that I want them to do better than that, and we intend to on behalf of our customers and our citizens to hold them accountable for their performance,” Malloy said.
He reminded reporters during a Thursday evening briefing that he signed into law this year a bill that will hold the utilities accountable if they fail to perform. The legislation says if 10 percent of customers are out of power for longer than two days that their utility provider will be subject to review by the Public Utility Regulatory Authority.
“They can be subjected to penalties if their response was found wanting,” Malloy said. “I’m not saying that that’s the case. In fact in some ways it’s too early to tell, but I want every citizen in the state of Connecticut to know there is a process to test that and that process will be undertaken at an appropriate time.”
Malloy cautioned though that “this was a titanic event that only ended hours ago.”
Asked if he believes the utility companies when they say power will be restored to a majority of their customers by early next week, Malloy said he’s like any other citizen in Connecticut.
“You want to believe them. You want to rely on them. But we’ve been burned once,” Malloy said. “The number one thing they can do is perform — both utilities.”
He said United Illuminating, which services 17 towns along the shore, has 50,000 more customers out than it did at the height of Tropical Storm Irene.
“CL&P — they’ve had two dry runs they should be able to hit it,” Malloy said of Connecticut Light & Power, the state’s largest utility company.
Meanwhile, the National Guard has been busy delivering food and water to 57 of the 72 towns that have requested it. So far 9,700 meals and 11,500 cases of water have been distributed.
And preparations for Tuesday’s election were moving ahead.
An estimated 65 to 70 polling locations in the service area covered by Connecticut Light & Power are still without electricity, down from about 100 polling locations Wednesday. At the same time, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill also is reporting that 25 polling locations in the service area of United Illuminating are still lacking electricity.
In Branford, one of the towns on the shoreline that got clobbered by the storm, generators have been brought in as a backup measure to make sure there is power at the polling places.
State law allows registrars to change polling locations if no other options are available.
Click here to read more from the Branford Eagle.
Also, the Small Business Administration is offering low-interest loans to businesses impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
In New Haven, work already was under way at the Phoenix Press.
Click here to read more about their clean up efforts.