There was more tough talk aimed at Connecticut Light & Power on Monday, nine days after the snowstorm that wreaked havoc on trees and power lines and plunged more than 800,000 power company customers into darkness.
During a late afternoon press conference at the state Capitol, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said CL&P would be held accountable for its response to the storm and the frustratingly slow pace in restoring power to hard-hit communities in the Farmington Valley, the Tolland-Vernon area and West Hartford.
CL&P said it would again miss a goal of restoring power to 99 percent of its customers by Monday night, but said all would be restored by Wednesday night. The company missed a 99 percent restoration goal Sunday.
Throughout CL&P's service area, lights continued to come back on Monday as more than 1,000 crews cleared tree debris, repair damaged power lines and equipment, and reconnected service lines to houses and businesses. By 10:10 a.m. Tuesday, the number of CL&P customers still without power dropped to 24,071 — about 1 percent of total customers. The company said that nearly 2,700 crews continued restoration work Monday night.
Meanwhile, cities and towns around the state prepared polling places for municipal elections scheduled to go on as planned Tuesday.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said she has been in frequent communication with local election officials and utility company managers.
"Our message all along to the more than 160 cities and towns has been 'follow the election laws, do what you can to preserve as much normalcy as possible to cut down voter confusion, and be practical,''' Merrill said at a noon press briefing. "There is no perfect solution to this particular Election Day. The laws are designed to be flexible under certain circumstances, and this is definitely one of them.''
Nine communities — Avon, Bloomfield, Newington, Plymouth, Simsbury, Somers, South Windsor, Stafford and Vernon — have shifted at least one polling location. In some cases, the polling place has no power; in other cases, it is being used as an emergency shelter or warming center. The full list of changes to municipal polling places is on the Secretary of the State's website.
One particularly hard-hit town, Farmington, went to court Monday to delay the election, but a judge denied the town's request, said Av Harris, a spokesman in the secretary of the state's office.
West Hartford, which was also badly impacted by the storm and its aftermath, is not changing any of its polling places at this point, Merrill said.
Malloy said Monday that an outside firm's examination of CL&P's handling of the storm would provide key information that state officials could then used to hold those responsible accountable.
The governor said CL&P failed to meet the "industry standard" for performance during and after the storm, which hit the state with wet, heavy snow Oct. 29.
"But I don't even have to hold them to an industry standard," Malloy said. "I'll hold them against their own standard. They failed. They told us that they were going to have completed something [restoration of 99 percent of customers by Sunday night] and they failed to do it. So if they have their own standard, I suspect they failed an industry standard by even more."
CL&P President Jeff Butler, in a press conference Monday evening at the State Armory, pledged to have all customers restored to power by midnight Wednesday. That's 11 days after the storm hit the state.
Butler said he also welcomed an examination of his company's response to the storm and said it would find the company did things right in some areas and fell short in others.
Crews have been massed to work in the hardest-hit areas, Butler said. In the Farmington Valley and West Hartford, 597 crews were at work. In the Tolland-Vernon area, 661 crews were working, Butler said.
James A. Muntz, presidnet of Northeast Utilities Transmission, was assigned to oversee restoration work in the Farmington Valley and West Hartford. NU is CL&P's parent company. Ken Bowes, CL&P's vice president of energy delivery services, was overseeing work in the Tolland-Vernon-Somers area.
When told that some Simsbury residents reported seeing virtually no crews in their neighborhoods Sunday afternoon and evening, Butler responded, "I see the trucks. There have been a lot of lights turned on in the last eight days."
Butler acknowledged that people are upset and angry with him, but asked that residents not take their frustration out on crews. He said CL&P employees as well as outside crews are working hard to restore power. "Right now, for CL&P we're 10 times our normal work force," he said.