Brennan: Wilton Communicated, Responded Exceptionally During Alfred

First selectman says Wilton responded very well given its resources, and presents his point-of-view on what happened during the disaster.

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." 

EMR November 08, 2011 at 01:19 PM
What the town should be doing is go around town in a bucket truck like they have been doing on the Parkway and trim every tree that looks dangerous to the power lines. And put "Wilton Town Hall" or "Wilton Emergency Service" on the robo call instead of a toll free number (which are mainly spammers or marketeers).
Wilton Resident November 08, 2011 at 01:32 PM
Show your dissatisfaction at the polls today!!!! Write-in another candidate for First Selectman. DO NOT let Bill back for another term - you KNOW there will be another storm and he has proven twice now he is in over his head.
EMR November 08, 2011 at 01:46 PM
who do you vote for Mickey Mouse? Unfortunately, nobody on another ticket threw their hat in the ring. The power outages had nothing to do with Bill. I don't agree with bill's way of handling things all the time, but CLP is where your anger should be directed at, not Bill.
Jlo November 08, 2011 at 01:53 PM
Because they contracted to have the work done and can't just tell them to go sit at home without pay for a week while Bill puts out fires.
Jlo November 08, 2011 at 01:56 PM
Yeah they need to trim the trees...the only question is who pays for it? the town or CL&P? I guess in the end we, the consumer will pay for it...through rates or taxes. As for the phone number thats just splitting hairs. If you're really anxious about a robocall pickup the phone, if its a telemarketer than hang up.
Wilton Resident November 08, 2011 at 02:01 PM
Susan Bruschi's name has been thrown around as a write-in today (heard someone spoke to her and she was fine with it) - I assume one of the selectman that are currently running (Ted or Hal) is also an option. Bill should have been more insistent with CL&P and not accepted whatever lip service he was getting. I witnessed first hand how a neighboring town handled it - First Selectman in the EOC with a rep from CL&P who has a laptop communicating directly with the CL&P supervisor in Texas who is dispatching crews). Residents would call, Facebook, or stop in the EOC, they would confirm the outage with the CL&P rep, the super in Texas would notify them exactly when they could expect a crew. A well oiled machine - nothing like what Wilton had. EOC in that town also sent town agencies out to check on elderly & medically unstable patients (info from Meals on Wheels, Ambulance Corps, etc). We have the ability to make a change at our local level - we can't vote for the CL&P Pres. Let's do what we can - and along the way get someone in that office who can get some revitalization of downtown so we can attract and keep businesses! There are SOOOO many things Bill should have been doing rather than clearing brush from Thunder Lake.
Ken MacCallum November 08, 2011 at 02:07 PM
With all due respect to Mr. Brennan, people needed communication on Saturday as the snow fell and on Sunday when the power was fauling and they were stuck n their homes due to dowmed trees and wires. The Town failed on these days. The emails and robocalls I received were as follows: - no robocalls or emails on Saturday - Sunday, a single robocall from Mr. Brennan, an email from wiltonct@yahoogroups.com at 8:37 am that had no message, an email at 2:12 regarding the library being open, and an email at 4:40 as to the schools being closed. Nothing as to road closures or the exent of damage. - Monday, two robocalls form Mr. Brennan, the first "WILTON EMERGENCY NOTIFICATION" from wiltonct@yahoogroups.com at 11:11 am (withe the text of the Monday am robocall), a 10:41 email from wiltonct@yahoogroups with a list of road closures as of Sunday night, and a 3:09 PM email with an update from The Wilton Emergency Operations Center - from Tuesday through Froday, there were two robocalls per day, and twice daily emo updates
Ken MacCallum November 08, 2011 at 02:15 PM
Cintinuing m comment: Patch quotes Bill Brennan as saying “I don’t mind taking a bad rap for bad communication, but I feel like we did a lot of communication this time.” The facts as to the lack of communication on Saturday and Monday speak for themselves - in my opinion, the Town did no better on those days than during Irene. However, I agree with Mr. Brennan that form Tuesday ion, the Tiown did much better communicating the situation that during Irene. As others have noted on Pacth over the past week, compare Wilton's limited or non-existent communication in these days with Ridgefield (multiple robocalls on Saturday, starting in the arly afternoon) and New Canaaan. I do want to express my appreciation to the DPW employees who had a hurculean task in clearing roads that can best be described as a war zone, and to the staff of Weir Farm who cleared a tree that fell form their property and which blocked my street - opening the road a full day before DPW was able to get to our area. Will our elected officials learn a lesson from this storm? I certainly hope so. They have now had two chances.
Al Alper November 08, 2011 at 04:15 PM
Town employees, officials and our 1st Selectman Bill Brennan did a terrific job in both response and communication. While there may be isolated incidents of missed or ignored communications, we received information every day starting on Saturday, and some days it was 3x in one day. Vacations/days off were immediately cancelled and all 16 DPW employees set out to work the 128miles of roads as WPD ensured public safety on all main roads, intersections and downed wires where known. WFD opened the EOC and emergency operations ensured shelters were open, staffed, warm and had water. All these things happen, choreographed silently from Town Hall and the 1st Selectman's office. No response is perfect, but casting such negative commentary (especially anonymously) ignores or marginalizes the good, hard work done by all and led by Bill Brennan. I also want to give a BIG and LOUD shout out to our various community-based organizations - Wilton Y, Wilton Library and Trackside. They once again demonstrated what being a member of the community is about. They set a very high bar that we should all try and reach in the "high calling of our daily work".
Wilton Voter November 08, 2011 at 04:59 PM
The message Mr. Brennan should hear loud and clear is that for better or worse, may Wilton voters think it's time to get a fresh perspective. I know that it will not happen with any amount of write in votes, however- listen up Mr. Brennan- too bad we don't have a choice in this election and status quo will reign on.
Al Alper November 08, 2011 at 05:21 PM
WV - Wilton has a choice every year, early in the year when citizens WANT or CHOOSE to raise their hands to be considered. It is a terrific display of what our republican form of Government is about and plays out each and every year. If choice is what you're after, it begins with willing participants in the process. Can we look forward to you raising your hand next year, or the year after? We are very grateful Bill had chosen to raise his hand, and thankful to his lively bride Kathleen for indulging him, and allowing Wilton the benefit of his service.
Wilton Resident November 08, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Al - you make it sound as though Bill is a volunteer! "raising his hand, and thankful to his bride for indulging him?????" Last I checked First Selectman is a paid position. Yes, we need more people to step up - I couldn't agree more, but please don't make it sound like he is doing this out of the goodness of his heart.
Ken MacCallum November 08, 2011 at 05:45 PM
"we received information every day starting on Saturday" - Al, what communications did you receive on Saturday? I know what emails and robocalls I received (see my earlier post), and I received nothing until Sunday. If there is another list or service I am not using, I would like to know about it. Otherwise, let's not circle the wagons around Bill unless there are facts to back up statements of this sort.
Al Alper November 08, 2011 at 05:58 PM
Kim..You are correct that it is a paid position, but with commentary such as what has been thrown about in this and other threads we should be thankful he raised his hand. Certainly the salary is hardly worth the personal assault he must endure here or the angst any wife would feel at having to read it.
Suzanne November 08, 2011 at 06:18 PM
How about James Saxe? He's running for Selectman.
Eustace Tilley November 08, 2011 at 07:08 PM
BB got bruised on this. Rightly or wrongly, perception IS reality. Part of the response to the storm is probably attributable to public anger and frustration with government in general. Debts, blown budgets, corruption and an insatiable spending spree at all levels of government is corrosive at best. BB just happens to be the local flash point on a local, state and national issue. The true lesson is "do not expect government to solve your problems." They can't. Better to shrink it to the 'right size' before it overwhelms our society.
TWR November 08, 2011 at 07:40 PM
Al, the one thing I can agree with you is that the Wilton Library, Wilton Y, Trackside and our Police & Fire Departments and CERT volunteers have once again proved themselves to be the heart and soul of this community. This is where we part company. We are signed up for Code Red, and we did not receive any communication until Sunday afternoon at 2:00. We have friends in New Canaan and Ridgefield, so we have a good basis of comparison between their towns' administrative effectiveness in communication and the lack thereof in Wilton. When I went to vote today, I specifically asked whether we could write in for another candidate, and was told that I could not, so I did the next best thing, and did not bubble in Bill Brennan's name. Unfortunately for the town, and fortunately for Mr. Brennan, the timing of this storm was too late to get approval from the Governor's office for write-ins (at least that's what I was told at the polls) or for another viable candidate to run against him. I hope that other citizens who have been frustrated by what has happened (and not happened) during Irene and Albert, as well as lessons not learned between the two storms, will do the same. If enough people who vote today do not bubble him in, I think it would send a clear sign of "no confidence" to Mr. Brennan. Maybe that would wake him up to reality, as well as to the people who "circle their wagons around him." Maybe we could get a petition started to impeach him instead....
Al Alper November 08, 2011 at 09:14 PM
As I stated earlier, no response to "disasters" such as these is perfect. We'll agree that other Towns use different means to communicate and, if you're engaged in those forms (FaceBook, Twitter, etc.) then you'll receive them. For me, I was proactive on finding information on Saturday and sought it out. And followed up throughout the outage. I also passively received information (code red, emails, etc.). We can also agree that the response this time was markedly and measurable better than after Irene. That said, instead of looking for reasons to find fault let's build a list of what to do differently/better and work with the Town and Bill to get them implemented; proactively ensuring future information flow is better.
Fellow Wiltonian November 08, 2011 at 10:10 PM
One of the things that good neighbors of Wilton could do is to clear the brush away from the road in front of their property, of course if there are no wires down. This would be a big help for drivers along the narrow, windy roads of Wilton. We shouldn't expect DPW to do this any time soon, if at all.
Another Wilton Mom November 09, 2011 at 12:58 AM
Suggestion: BB sets up a webpage, email address and/or a good old fashioned suggestion box where everyone can comment about what went right, what went wrong and submit suggestions for how things could have been done differently. There are obviously enough people that are not satisfied by his response to form a voluntary committee to summarize the key learnings from the submissions. If BB agrees, who will not only talk the talk, but walk the walk and help? Or perhaps start such an effort on your own? I was satisfied, but not overwhelmed by BB's response. That being said, I am sure much went on behind the scenes that I'm not aware of that would merit a 'thumbs up'. I hope this time any suggestions BB receives are acted upon more quickly than after Irene. Improvements were made. But did other towns do better with their communication? Yes. How long does it take to set up a blog or Facebook page? Minutes. My personal submission for the suggestion box: Contact Dial-A-Ride operators, Stay-At-Home In Wilton, Meals on Wheels and other local organizations and find out their views about eminent need, especially among those who could not get out on their own under normal circumstances. Notify volunteers of those needs (i.e. check on these addresses if they need firewood, water, etc). I would have happily volunteered to deliver water/other necessities anywhere. Maybe something like this did happen. If so, bravo!
Kathy Rosenbaum November 09, 2011 at 10:47 AM
pat cavalieri November 09, 2011 at 12:06 PM
I just want to make a correction in the amount of DPW personel that are out there chipping 10 people 3 at the wilton transfer station 2 mechanics 1 foreman =16 not bad for all the work that was done to this point. They put in countless hours and there is still more to be done, good job guys.
William sherman November 17, 2011 at 03:26 PM
Al, I agree with you that nothing in a situation like this is "Perfect". We can't control the weather, nor apparently the write in vote situation, but that is off subject. I did not get much information because my phone did not work and my power was out..We do have a protable generator capable of running a few lights, the well pump, the furnace and the refrigerator, but that is no good for communication if all the outside lines are down. As of yesterday some posters noted that there were still without power, and in my case. although we now have power, some short blackouts continued. As far as cell phones are concerned, reception here is terrible. Our home based business lost a week of communication, clients were not happy. I make a suggestion, as you asked, that the Public Works department start looking at potential hot spots for problems. Like large branches that already cover power lines. This suggestion has been made to their management a few times by neighbors, but nothing seems to happen That is citizen proactivity, but if not acted upon, what else can we do?. We do have battery powered radios, that may be an option.. , if announcements could be schedualed as part of an emergency plan.


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