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Legislators: Closing Middletown's CL&P Work Center Could Affect Reliability

Democratic lawmakers hope the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority will investigate whether a planned Connecticut Light & Power office consolidation would hurt Middletown customers.

Lawmakers voiced concerns to state regulators Monday that a planned closure of Middletown's Connecticut Light & Power office could delay response time and lengthen outages.
Lawmakers voiced concerns to state regulators Monday that a planned closure of Middletown's Connecticut Light & Power office could delay response time and lengthen outages.
Editor's note: Middletown Patch follows up on this story with a response from CL&P in Connecticut Light & Power: Work Station Mergers Won't Disrupt Critical Services.

Lawmakers voiced concerns to state regulators Monday that a planned closure of Middletown's Connecticut Light & Power office could delay response time and lengthen outages.

State Rep. Matthew Lesser says the city's Democratic delegation is objecting CL&P's plan to shut down its Middletown office and filing testimony today with the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority detailing concerns.

Democratic lawmakers used today's PURA hearing with the attorney general to piggyback their worries about the Middletown District Eastern Regional Headquarters on Randolph Road folding into the East Hampton office.

"I am deeply concerned that this proposal could have a negative impact on electric service in Middlesex County," Lesser says. "Our complaint compliments efforts by the office of consumer council and Attorney Gen. George Jepsen to block pending layoffs of CL&P staff."

PURA today heard testimony from Jepsen's office on the planned outsourcing of about 160 informational technology jobs by Northeast Utilities and the consolidation of facilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

CL&P plans to also merge its Lebanon, South Windsor and Willimantic work centers into the East Hampton one.

“While not unexpected, the changes NU announced today are very significant and will severely impact those Connecticut families that are ultimately affected by the planned staff reductions," the attorney general's office said in a statement in October.

The attorney general's office and the Office of Consumer Counsel have already asked PURA to "fully review the effect that outsourcing of information technology jobs could have on the company’s major storm outage readiness, response and communication as well as the company’s compliance with the approved merger agreement," the statement continues.

In a letter dated Oct. 29 to PURA Chairman Arthur House, state Sens. Dante Bartolomeo and Paul Doyle and state Rep. Paul Doyle and Lesser argued that closing the city's CL&P office and moving staff to East Hampton could negatively affect service.

"It is our concern that this may impact the ability of CL&P to meet currently mandated service standards to South-Central Connecticut residents in general and Middlesex County residents in particular," the letter reads.

CL&P has denied the consolidation of its work centers would disrupt service in any way.

Citing Middletown's central location in Connecticut and access to major highways, the letter says, "we are deeply concerned that moving staff critical to reliability to a location across a congested bridge to the other side of the Connecticut River could increase the chances of future prolonged power outages in the event of storm-related outages."

Lesser says he's heard from many constituents who object to the merger. "And I've emptied out my freezer twice in the last couple years," he says. "I'm just tired of that."

CL&P faced harsh criticism for major power disruptions following February's mega snowstorm, Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 and Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.

Northeast Utilities, which merged with NStar in April 2012, is under pressure to show its estimated $780 million in cost savings to its shareholders and customers.

Also Monday, House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz submitted testimony to PURA asking the agency to reject Northeast Utilities’ planned outsourcing.

“I am highly distressed by the outsourcing of hundreds of jobs currently held by middle-class workers here in Connecticut for the sake of corporate profit,” Rep. Aresimowicz told PURA. “The outsourcing could have several severe consequences including diminishing the utility’s storm response capabilities, jeopardizing the security of its infrastructure and customer information, and degrading the quality of customer service.”
My Opinion December 17, 2013 at 11:23 AM
Politicians are all mouth, and NO action. CL&P will do what they want, when they want

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