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Storm Shakes Confidence of Wilton Voters

Perceived lack of communication has some talking about a need for new leadership.

Winter Storm Alfred more than , it appears to also have ravaged voter confidence.

Loralyn Cropper, who lost power from 2 p.m. on Saturday Oct. 29 until late morning Friday Nov. 4, said she's "very disappointed in Wilton’s leadership."

"The Town has not responded in a timely manner. I’m not going to vote for him [First Selectman Bill Brennan]," she said.

Like many Wilton residents, Cropper expressed frustration not only with CL&P, but also with the town's highest elected official, saying they were dismayed about the . Now some residents say they plan to vote with their feet on Tuesday. In short, they won’t be pulling the lever for Brennan, who is running unopposed. Their decision not to vote is their vote.

Brennan could not be reached for comment.

In a robocall Friday, the first selectman thanked Wiltonians.

“During this severe emergency, the town greatly appreciates everyone's patience,” Brennan said in the recorded message. “We recognize that residents are tired and frustrated. Be assured every effort is being made to restore 100 percent of power to Wilton by this weekend."

Because of the issue of communication during and after Hurricane Irene, other residents said they couldn’t believe it wasn’t improved this time.

The town website didn’t post any storm related information until p.m. on Sunday Oct. 30. And it wasn’t until nearly 24 hours after the storm that town officials started letting residents know about food, shelter and power.

“Apathy is a politician's best friend and Wilton politicians should be grateful,” George Young commented on Wilton Patch. "If it wasn't for the beer issue this Election Day, the only turnout in Wilton would be the unopposed politicians voting for themselves."

At nearly 11 p.m. on Oct. 29, 58 percent of Wilton had no lights, wrote Ken MacCallum.

There was still, according to Ken MacCallum a “complete lack of communication from our town 'leaders'—no calls on the reverse 911 system and no emails on the email alert facility.”

Several residents praised , for issuing email updates throughout the week.

Lavielle said she went to the Norwalk Regional Operations Center, which served Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, Wilton, New Canaan and Norwalk. And while operations centers as a rule are closed to all but the Fire and Police Chiefs and First Selectmen, the Norwalk center did agree to show Lavielle how it worked.

“If I want up to the minute information I go to where it is,” Lavielle said, who still had no power as of Nov. 4.

Lavielle spoke to many angry constituents during the week. She said more than anything else most were fed up with CL&P.

“This is a huge black eye for Connecticut,” she said. “How can we tell people to come here to live, to do business, and then not have power for eight days?”

Moreover, Lavielle said, CL&P was woefully unprepared. She said she received a voice message from CL&P Friday night before the storm saying this was going to be much worse than Irene but that they were going to be ready.

“So why did it take so long to call in all the out of state crews? That’s not the fault of anybody in Wilton,” Lavielle said, adding the Town had difficulty getting accurate information from CL&P.

She expects a bi-partisan effort to come up with legislation next session that addresses how to give CL&P more competition and get it to perform better.

MacCallum and several other residents used the comments section urging Wilton copy New Canaan’s Office of Emergency Management Facebook page, which included a real time map of road closures and wires down as well as details about emergency shelter. Others pointed to Ridgefield, which they said made reverse 411 calls.

“What's up, Mr. Brennan—is it because you are unopposed for reelection, Wilton taxpayers can sit in the dark without any way to know what is going on in town?” MacCallum posted.

Mary Caty, who lives on Linden Tree Road, derided what she said was a total lack of communication from the Town. She, her husband and children removed road-blocking debris last Sunday. 

On Friday, Caty implored neighbors to call Brennan’s office to let them know roads still had no power and were covered in debris.

“We need to rally and motivate and become the squeaky wheel!” Caty wrote in an email. “Please take 5 minutes today to voice your concern and frustration about the lack of response. If Brennan's office gets enough pressure he may put pressure on CL&P to work on our neighborhood.”

Wilton Resident November 07, 2011 at 05:43 PM
be sure whoever you 'write-in' would want the job. If they win then decline the position it would go to the next highest votes (Bill??) I would suggest to write-in one of the 2 selectman running..... SPREAD THE WORD! Let's make a statement.
Geoffrey Day November 07, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Bill Brennan's on the ballot because the RTC put him there. Wise up, Wilton. You don't cure a patient's ills by addressing only his symptoms.
Quartrz from Tampa November 07, 2011 at 05:57 PM
You have till 11:59 tonite to get his job, so man up!!!
Quartrz from Tampa November 07, 2011 at 06:00 PM
I live in Tampa, but my parents still live in Wilton...how is that for an update
Michael Perrella November 07, 2011 at 06:20 PM
Yes, communication was less than desired but fair is fair, on Sunday Oct. 30 I personally saw Bill Brennan working with a tree clearing crew on Thunder Lake Rd. and was not drinking coffee. And most certainly a shout out to Rep. Gail Lavielle, she was on full communication alert, just check her Facebook page.
Wilton Voter November 07, 2011 at 06:29 PM
Susan Bruschi is aware of my write in choice.
Ken MacCallum November 07, 2011 at 06:42 PM
Mike - I am curious as to when and where you saw Mr. Brennan on Thunder Lake Road, given that Thunder Lake wasn't plowed until between 3:00 and 3:30 PM on Sunday the 30th due to trees being down. Communication on Saturday and Sunday was hardly "less than ideal' - it was non-existent on Saturday; the first robocall on Sunday was late in the afternoon; and the first email blast had no message. Compared to New Canaan and Ridgefield did, Wilton officials should be embarassed. We will ahe to disagree as to what can be reasonably expected from the Town in return for our very high property taxes. Has anyone sent Bill pressing the flesh at the train stations in advance of tomorrow's voting? (I refrain from saying 'election' as all the candidates are unopposed. Hal Clark (running) and Gail Lavielle (not running) were at Cannondale this morning, but no sign of Bill.
Del Dridle November 07, 2011 at 07:30 PM
Sunday Nov. 6th not Oct 30... I don't want my leader clearing the roads, I want him/her directing a full staff of town employees to clear the roads, help the elderly, ride CL*P like a cheap pony, cordinate OEM, inform the public, get the police and fireman off their asses and show some gd leadership for a change....
Del Dridle November 07, 2011 at 07:30 PM
Sunday Nov. 6th not Oct 30... I don't want my leader clearing the roads, I want him/her directing a full staff of town employees to clear the roads, help the elderly, ride CL*P like a cheap pony, cordinate OEM, inform the public, get the police and fireman off their asses and show some gd leadership for a change....
FrankJ November 07, 2011 at 09:27 PM
I am tired of residents of CT and Wilton whining and bashing elected officials and CL&P for what they did or didn't do under extraordinary circumstances. Mother Nature ushered in this terribly destructive, unprecedented storm. Get over it. If you wanted someone else to run the town, why wait until today? Katrina, tsunami in Japan...those were worth whining about. Communications can be improved, but we will never be able to plan for 50 or 100 yr natural events.
Michael Perrella November 07, 2011 at 09:28 PM
I saw Bill with a 5 or 6 man crew on Sunday the 30th on or about 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon on Thunder Lake Rd. 50 yards or so from Indian Hill Rd. near where a pole was on the ground and low hanging wires. I am a registered Independent, I bring this up because I do not carry any political allegiance, many of the disaffected citizens who are commenting make reference to a no opposition election. Whose fault is that, if their are complaints, diffences then throw your hat in the ring and present your case.
Wilton Resident November 07, 2011 at 10:13 PM
Not interested in my elected official out there clearing brush - he/she should be as Del put it..." directing a full staff of town employees..." Think outside the box: - offer ICE for residents (for any minimal food storage AND meds like insulin) - set up the Facebook status page as New Canaan did - open your EOC up for residents to come in and talk with you and witness you & the CL&P rep working together - ask local restaurants if they want to serve up a free lunch to residents at the Miller/Driscoll shelter (I'm sure restauranteurs would have loved that opportunity!). A hot meal in a heated shelter vs. an MRE in your cold dark house. Unfortunately, I cannot throw my hat into the ring (as much as I would like to), so I will be "writing-in" someone else on the ballot tomorrow to lead this town. and Jerry, extraordinary circumstances? was Irene ALSO extraordinary?
FrankJ November 07, 2011 at 10:47 PM
Wilton Resident...yes, Irene was also extraordinary. The last hurricane to do significant damage and cause wide-spread power outages was in 1955. The last snow/ice storm to do the same was in 1973. If we plan to become "prepared" for such extremes, nobody would accept the tax/utility expense that would go along with it. Current estimates for burying power lines are $1MM per mile. Surely communication links could be better, but I would suggest that neighbors and friends are the best solution for warmth/hot food/refrigeration. Reminds me of a memorable quotation from President John F. Kennedy...
Joe Burke November 07, 2011 at 11:22 PM
Well said Jerry. The incessant whining by a couple of people is ridiculous. Yes communications need to improve and yes our town needs to embrace social media as a means of communication the way that Gail Lavielle has done so very well. Our First Selectmen needs to know that. Perhaps since our elected officials work for us we should tell them what we want rather than waste time with the partisan sniping that has defined this thread.
EMR November 08, 2011 at 12:45 AM
We have a critical power infrastructure problem. Technology and Administrative. Easiest thing is to fire Butler. Technology is more important. 1930's CCC copy should address this by putting everything underground. That will create lots of jobs.
Del Dridle November 08, 2011 at 12:52 AM
Jerry, I have no problem with mother nature... We gave Bill Brennan every opportunity to prove that he is up for the job...It goes way before Irene...When Marconi over in Ridgefield lashed out at CL&P after Irene, we at least thought Bill would join in or at least draft a letter (he is so good at drafting letters) joining in Marconi's call for accountability... We are not "whining" we are simply stating a case that Bill Brennan is way over his head... If you don't agree with that case then keep on voting for him and keep on taking it from CL&P...
Del Dridle November 08, 2011 at 12:54 AM
see above response....
Del Dridle November 08, 2011 at 12:55 AM
"incessant whining"... do you live in a box? Seven days without power in one of the wealthiest counties in the country?
Wilton Resident November 08, 2011 at 01:10 AM
OK, so long term.....everything underground, great ==> $$$$ ++++ time. In the meantime, let's get a leader who can handle what we have ------ Brennan has proven that he is NOT that person. VOTE tomorrow for someone else! Write-in another candidate for First Selectman.
Michael Perrella November 08, 2011 at 03:37 AM
No one "lives in a box", an elitest statement such as that of Del Dridle is truly beyond selfishness. Sections of central Ct., East and West Hartford are major areas still without power and we all know how wealthy they are. As for Ridgefield, it's obvious how successful Marconi's lashing out to CL&P has benefited, they still are in several areas without power by the way I do respect Marconi. Yes, there are some real whiners in Fairfield one of the wealthiest counties in the country.
Al Alper November 08, 2011 at 04:16 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".
Jennie MacGregor November 08, 2011 at 10:30 PM
SHAME ON ALL YOU NEGATIVE PEOPLE who have nothing better to do than focus blame on one man who has worked tiredlessly for YEARS on helping make this town a fantastic place to live...and where you have all chosen to live. He runs uncontested because of his proven track record and the countless improvements he has acheived.. making this town such a desirable place to live. Rather than throwing him under the bus the moment this town faces a nor'easter (the scope of which we have not seen in over 40 years - that devastated the ENTIRE state - with many towns still without power) why don't you all get out and help and not just throw blame on one man. We should be rising together to help each other in this wonderful community. I look forward to seeing all of you "anonymous" bloggers on the next ballot. Jennie MacGregor
Jennie MacGregor November 08, 2011 at 10:36 PM
SHAME ON ALL YOU NEGATIVE PEOPLE who have nothing better to do than focus blame on one man who has worked tiredlessly for YEARS on helping make this town a fantastic place to live...and where you have all chosen to live. He runs uncontested because of his proven track record and the countless improvements he has acheived.. making this town such a desirable place to live. Rather than throwing him under the bus the moment this town faces a nor'easter (the scope of which we have not seen in over 40 years - that devastated the ENTIRE state - with many towns still without power) why don't you all get out and help and not just throw blame on one man. We should be rising together to help each other in this wonderful community. I look forward to seeing all of you "anonymous" bloggers on the next ballot. Jennie MacGregor
Del Dridle November 09, 2011 at 12:04 AM
Wow... Negative People ... That's what you call people who have small children....pay over $13,000 a year in property taxes and expect some type of an emergency plan in the event they lose power for seven days (once again in 60 days!)...Gee... I guess we are all "whiners"... Is there a window at Town Hall that says" All town residents that wish to pay your taxes and not expect electricity or any other necessary services (in the event that we don't get it correct the first time) please line up here....Wow...Jennie can you come over and take care of the kids because I am too busy working on the re-elect Bill Brennan campaign....
Cathy November 09, 2011 at 12:49 AM
I have lived in Wilton since 1993 and have experienced recurring power outages in every section of town. Over the years my husband and I renovated and lived in 7 homes and after the 3rd recognized that a generator was worth installing. We also learned to keep water, candles, wood and other staples on hand. There have been at least 2 instances where the sitting governor officially closed the roads. It took us time to build on the idea but as a renter now I sure do miss having a generator! Get a generator, stock up on a week+ worth of staples to survive no power/heat for a short period of time and enjoy your family and neighbors.
Another Wilton Mom November 09, 2011 at 02:57 AM
DD - that is so illogical it does not merit a response. Repeating 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!
Resident November 09, 2011 at 03:54 AM
Putting aside the comments from the election boosters, the response of CL&P and our local elected leadership was underwhelming at best. The recent events of concern were not once in a lifetime natural disasters, we are talking about a tropical storm and a snowfall. The events are relatively mundane and common, the extent of the damage was magnified by a public utility who has scrimped on maintenance and has inadequate resources. Poor leadership thrives on apathy. Our First Selectman is a terribly nice fellow with many years of fine service, but the time comes when one should step aside. Term limits should apply to all political offices. I am not sure I would have the drive to provide vigorous leadership when I am 76 years old.
FrankJ November 10, 2011 at 04:49 PM
It is interesting to me that all of the negative comments seem to come from residents who aren't sure enough of their convictions to sign in with real names. In some circles this is known as "cyber-bullying".
Dave Schmitt November 10, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Former resident A 59 year resident that moved out of town three years ago but still stay in touch. I recieved at least one text and usually more EVERY day from the Town with a list of roads still closed, a list of where the crews were working and the estimated timeline. I got a text from the superintendant updating the school closing situation. I wish where I live now diod as good a job of informing it's citizens. Complian all you want but if Igot all this info without asking I am sure anyone else could also
Geoffrey Day November 10, 2011 at 07:01 PM
Whether a comment qualifies as cyber-bullying depends primarily on its tone and message, not necessarily on whether it is posted under a pseudonym. Lord knows, if sweetness and light were a prerequisite, this blog would have been out of business a long time ago.

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