Sherborn Selectmen [...] rip NSTAR

sherborn 111611
Saturday's early snowstorm knocked down tree branches. Close to 70 percent of Dover and 26 percent of Sherborn was still without power as of Halloween morning. (Wicked Local photo by Maureen Sullivan)

By Joyce Kelly
Wicked Local Dover-Sherborn
Nov 16, 2011

Sherborn — [...] In other business, selectmen, several residents and Police Chief Richard Thompson discussed their disappointment over the NSTAR utility company for what they called its poor preparation and performance during and after the Halloween snowstorm.

“After Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene, some of us, including me, were without power for an extended period of time,” said Selectman Paul DeRensis.

“I don’t feel they did an adequate job here. At the end of the day, there were no trucks here. We got through that storm, and they said, hopefully, it would be a learning experience. With the Halloween storm, essentially, the same thing happened — the same things happened,” DeRensis said.

NSTAR did not prepare adequately for the storm, he said.

Sherborn does not seem to be one of NSTAR’s priorities because of its small population, DeRensis said.

While the town may be small, he said, it is more dependent upon electricity than other communities, given its use of wells.

Without electricity, DeRensis said, “we can’t use toilets, cook, shower — basic life functions.”

“A lot of people are in medical need, and their devices don’t work” without electricity, he said.

And residents can’t walk to a grocery store for supplies, because there aren’t any in town, he said.

There were no NSTAR crews assigned to Sherborn for the first few days following the snowstorm, DeRensis said.

Fallen trees caused much of the trouble, he said, adding that NSTAR should be trimming more trees, statewide.

“All of the trees in this region have been neglected by NSTAR,” DeRensis said.

He commended the “truly heroic efforts” of Thompson, police and Community Maintenance and Development workers during and after the storm.

NSTAR, he said, “put an unbelievable burden on our people.”

Addressing Thompson and CMD Director Edward Wagner, DeRensis said, “You guys are heroes. I know you work night and day. Unbelievable effort. The entire community [thanks] you.”

Selectmen Chairman Thomas Twining said many Massachusetts cities and towns are now considering a class-action suit against NSTAR.

He also noted that the town’s employees cannot touch trees and branches before NSTAR arrives, because they don’t know if the power has been cut.

“People want to know, ‘Why aren’t they cutting down the trees?’ The answer is, because they might die,” Twining said.

“Our guys did everything they could, short of putting their lives at risk,” said Twining.

Thompson also criticized NSTAR’s job, saying, “There was extremely poor communication among NSTAR employees.

“There’s nothing more frustrating than being in the helping business and not being able to help,” Thompson said.

A tremendous amount of people came to the station, looking for answers, but police could not give them answers because NSTAR workers refused to speak with officers because they were inundated with calls, Thompson said.

“A lot of people were extremely desperate, filling buckets of water with our spigots out front. It couldn’t be more frustrating to me or my personnel, that we didn’t have answers for them,” he said.

One resident said NSTAR employees told him they don’t like the town of Sherborn, because many years ago, “we busted their chops, and we didn’t allow them to do what they wanted to do.”

Twining said NSTAR workers on the field made similar remarks to him, including, “You guys have messed with us so long, you’re last on our list, because we don’t want to mess with you.”

Twining said it’s time for the town to review some of its restrictive bylaws and regulations concerning its trees.

“I’m not suggesting going willy-nilly and cutting all our trees down. We need to take an honest look” at the reasons why the town lost power, Twining said.

DeRensis urged residents to trim their trees, as 92 percent of the trees in town are on private property, which neither the town nor NSTAR can touch.

“Remember, by not fixing the tree, you make take out power for all the town, for days,” DeRensis said.

Selectmen voted to send a letter to NSTAR, demanding an investigation into its preparation for, and response to, the snowstorm.

Pucci volunteered to pen it.

“It’s unacceptable — they make gobs of money, and they don’t have enough employees. Employ more people!” Pucci said.