Hurricanes over the past couple years have raised some questions in the Town of North Branford as far as the priorities for restoring electricity in the town. Terri Eller, a UI representative assigned to North Branford, came to the Feb. 19 Town Council meeting to explain the process.
“During Irene, you only had two priorities—Evergreen Woods and Hillside Terrace,” said Eller. “After Irene, we went around and met with our 17 towns and as a result, we allowed towns to increase by eight more priorities to give them 10.”
Eller explained that while UI considers the town’s priorities, the “real” first priority is ensuring public safety, including dealing with downed wires, vehicle accidents and burning homes.
After public safety is established, UI then proceeds to restore power to its 17 towns that include 320,000 customers. The hospitals top the list and then each of the town’s priorities, giving UI about 40 ‘Tier 1’ priorities to start with. North Branford had listed its allotted two Tier 1 priorities as North Branford Intermediate School, which serves as the town’s emergency shelter, and Evergreen Woods.
UI has liaisons assigned to each of its town with information on its “priorities.” In April 2012, Richard Branigan, North Branford’s former town manager, confirmed the following list of priorities in a letter included in Bonnie Therrien's most recent Town Manager Report:
- North Branford Police Department
- North Branford Town Hall
- Hillside Terrace
- Jerome Harrison Elementary School
- Regional Water Authority Treatment Facility
“After Sandy, the State was calling about its priorities, saying it assumed the town would take care of its [the state’s] priorities, but the state may highly recommend that the town may make the Regional Water Authority one of your Tier 1 priorities,” said Eller. “But it’s up to you, in your town, what you want your priorities to be. I’d recommend thinking very globally about how to handle the whole town and how to service them.”
Eller reminded the Council that each storm has its own “fingerprint” and a building or section of town that lost service during one storm may not lose service in another. She also recommended that priorities lie in “water, communications and sheltering centers.”
Mayor Anthony Candelora questioned why NBIS was a Priority 1 if it also has a backup generator with Councilor Vin Caprio noting that the extended use of the generator depends on whether or not it is hooked up to he gas lines.
“During Sandy and Irene, we saw a lot of issues with generators failing on day two or three,” said Eller. “When you think about your top 10, you think about those kind of things that the general public needs.”
Eller said that the town can change their priorities at any time, though a change in priorities can take up to three weeks to go into effect as it must be confirmed via letter and the liaisons need to visit the sites and look at the circuits.
The Council thanked Eller for her explanations and agreed they will be examining the priorities prior to hurricane season, which starts in June.