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Fitch honored for ice-storm response


North East Public Power Association recently honored Princeton Municipal Light Department Manager Jonathan Fitch for his work in the aftermath of the December 2008 ice storm.

Sean Hamilton, manager of the Templeton Municipal Light Department, nominated Fitch for the award. Princeton Select Board Chairman Alan Sentkowski sent a letter to NEPPA supporting the nomination.

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes individuals who have provided outstanding service to their public power systems and their communities in the past year. NEPPA President Gary Babin presented the award at the organization's 44th annual conference in Brewster on Sept. 21.

"When NEPPA asked for nominations, it was easy," said Hamilton. "Jon came right to mind."

John Fitch with his award.

Templeton was also hit by the ice storm. "I talked with Jon during the aftermath of the storm," said Hamilton. "You might have thought you were having a difficult day, but you just had to hear about Princeton to know just what a difficult day really was. Jon had it a lot worse than we did."

Sentkowski praised Fitch for the improvements in the electrical distribution system in town, his pursuit of the windmill project, installation of a wireless Internet system and ice storm response. "Jon became the leader of our effort to move forward," wrote Sentkowski. "His office became command central and his personal experience and leadership guided all of us. Jon never rested during this entire crisis."

Princeton experienced one of the worst ice storms ever to hit southern New England in December of 2008. After the storm, 100 percent of town roads were impassable and the electrical infrastructure was completely down.

In presenting the award, Babin said, "Fitch played a leadership role in his community in planning and directing their efforts to move forward and rebuild their electric system. He led by example and diligent efforts, and did not rest until power was restored to his community, his own home being one of the very last to be turned on. Furthermore, when the town administrator of Princeton passed away suddenly in February from an apparent heart attack, Jon Fitch took on the equally daunting task of documenting costs, completing forms, and applying for FEMA reimbursements. He also worked extensively with local representatives to assure that municipal light plants in Massachusetts were included in legislation providing state reimbursement through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency."

Selectman Joe O'Brien, who worked closely with Fitch on ice storm issues, said Monday, "The award is very well deserved. The town is much appreciative of all the efforts he put forth."

NEPPA is a private, non-profit association founded to represent and serve the consumer-owned utilities of New England.