Power Lines, Shelters Top New Canaan Worries After Sandy

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Betty Lovastik of New Canaan holds up the small radio she used during Hurricane Sandy to get information after the power went out. Photo Credit: Melvin Mason
Geoffrey Pickard, a member of the town's utilities commission, speaks during Thursday's post Hurricane Sandy response meeting. Photo Credit: Melvin Mason
New Canaan Emergency Management Director Mike Handler, left, speaks during Thursday's post-storm response meeting while First Selectman Robert Mallozzi III listens.
Bill Quinlan, a vice president with Connecticut Light & Power, talks during Thursday's post-storm response meeting in New Canaan. Photo Credit: Melvin Mason
Ben Bilus, standing, of New Canaan talks to emergency officials during Thursday's post-Hurricane Sandy response meeting. Photo Credit: Melvin Mason

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Burying utility lines underground, improving cellphone service and making sure New Canaan has a proper emergency shelter were some of the comments from residents at a forum Thursday to review the town's services after Hurricane Sandy.

Many who spoke praised town officials and volunteers for their work after the storm, which closed dozens of roads and knocked power out for much of the town for nearly two weeks. They also suggested improvements for the future.

Hector Medina of Hoyt Street hoped Connecticut Light & Power would investigate putting power lines underground.

“Unless they hope or expect the weather to be much better in the next year, you might as well get off your butt and start putting things underground,” said Medina, an electrical engineer who volunteered to help the utility with those efforts. The comments were met with applause from some. “The weather’s not going to get better, that’s for sure."

CL&P is looking into selective placement of underground lines, mainly for critical facilities such as hospitals and shelters, said Bill Quinlan, a CL&P senior vice president. Doing the whole system would be cost-prohibitive, he said. “It’s something we’re taking a very hard look at." CL&P has spent about $60 million to trim trees near power lines.

Betty Lovastik hoped the town would find a way to get more information to residents over the radio as well as get Metro-North trains to run to and from New Canaan sooner. Railroad service was affected for about two weeks after Sandy because of downed trees. “I don’t know what it is, but every time we have anything more than a gentle breeze, our poor little train doesn’t seem to be running,” she said. 

Lovastik praised the New Canaan YMCA, which was open for residents for showers and shelter. The town should have its own large-scale shelter, First Selectman Robert Mallozzi III and Emergency Management Director Mike Handler agreed. It would cost about $1.2 million to get a generator to power New Canaan High School or Saxe Middle School as a shelter, Handler said.

The town should pursue cell service improvements, including possibly condemning land if needed to get the necessary land for towers, Ben Bilus said. “We have a real safety and health concern issue and it requires some kind of real movement,” he said.  

Geoffrey Pickard, a member of the town’s utilities commission who has worked for years to improve cell coverage, said two sites have been identified for possible towers.

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