It’s been a rough week for everyone in Wilton, including First Selectman Bill Brennan, who’s been bearing the brunt of criticism from a populace aggravated by lengthy blackouts amid frosty nights.
“I don’t mind taking a bad rap for bad communication, but I feel like we did a lot of communication this time,” said Brennan. “It was a tough storm. People are frustrated; I understand that. [But] I want people to know what [the town] did so they understand.”
He pushed over a pile of Emergency Operations Center (EOC) notices along with the town’s automated Code Red transcriptions.
“We met before the storm even got here; we said we needed sand [for the roads] and we need plows; we’re gonna have a weekend storm….The sanding, the plows, started soon—it was slippery—we were cranked up right then and there. We knew we could open the EOC when it was necessary,” said Brennan.
Brennan contacted Patch yesterday afternoon, after reading Cathryn J. Prince’s article “.” He spoke plainly, and believed it to be “biased” and “unfair.”
"I feel we did a lot of communication this time," he said. "This storm was worse than Irene."
He also said that Prince did not contact him, although Prince said she left a “detailed message” on his office answering machine Friday afternoon.
The article quoted several people who expressed discontent, even outrage, because they felt Wilton had not done enough to communicate with its citizens, either by phone, website or social media.
Brennan thinks that the perceived lack of communication may be because some residents were not signed up for the town’s Code Red hotline.
The first emergency call came from the hotline on Sunday, Oct. 30 in the a.m. Records show that there were two calls per day to the 7,300 number enlisted in the hotline’s database; for each phone call, these 7,300 numbers were reached in about 20 minutes, Brennan said. Records indicate that the website was updated around the same time as the Code Red calls.
During the interview, Brennan repeatedly stated that people needed to sign up for Code Red by visiting the website.
“If you’re not in the system, you’re not getting the information. Everyone please register your phones.”
As for having an emergency Facebook page, the idea stalled out before it came to fruition. Brennan said that it “was one of those things that we agreed to look into after Irene, but it hadn’t been finalized.”
Emergency-information flyers were taped to stores around town which were taped to front doors by an officer. At one point Brennan himself went out to post flyers to the library and to businesses in the River Road area.
And as for the rumor while debris blockaded 108 (out of 308) roads? False.
“It was a private contractor. There’s a contractor doing sewer work down there—not the town. It’s a contractor, not a town employee, not the curbing [job],” said Brennan, looking exasperated.
“It’s okay to blame public officials, because we communicate that anger to the CL&P officials. I can assure you I know how bad the area is—I can’t tell you how much I’ve worked [in the past nine days]. I’ve been all over town and spent hours talking to CL&P officials,” he said.
“I tried to get back to everyone who contacted me. Sometimes I was in the EOC, sometimes I wasn’t here [in my office]. CL&P was slow to respond because they needed to bring more crews….It was the same old problem with CL&P; no information for two-three days,” said Brennan.
“Lots of the guys [town workers] who worked had their power out, the property damaged, but they did their jobs first…Lots have been working for nine straight days. They’re sore now. They did an incredibly job.”
And while most people honk and wave at CL&P crews, Brennan said that there were some reports of harassment. Allegedly, persons driving by would scream out obscenities as they passed.
“I would rather not go into the details,” he said. “Generally, people have been well-mannered and really patient.”
Asked to rate Wilton's response to the October storm, Brennan said that "given the resources we had, and the kind of storm it was, I think [our response] was exceptional."