Tag Archives: Eversource

Westport Gets Lit

Think your electric bill is high? Consider street lights.

The town of Westport pays $250,000 a year to keep those overhead lights on. It’s one of our largest Eversource charges.

Can we do anything about it?

We just did.

Over the past few months, the Public Works Department has been replacing all 1,273 street lights on state and town roads — most of them high-pressure sodium — with photometrically designed LED bulbs.

They focus on the road, without overspreading light into yards and windows. They last 20 years — double the old ones.

The new LED lights focus on the road. (Photo/Katherine Bruan

Thanks to 2 other types of savings, they’ll pay for themselves in just 5 years.

According to Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich, Eversource charges a lower rate for LED bulbs.

And — because street lights are un-metered — the utility estimates their annual cost. LEDs use much less electricity. So in addition to a lower rate, there will also be a lower usage calculation.

The department began installing the bulbs in mid-October. The project is nearly done.

Residential areas get bulbs with lower wattage than the Post Road. All include “smart” controls, meaning the brightness can be adjusted as necessary.

The new light bulb at Taylor Place.

The new lights can also be dimmed — or even shut off — after midnight, if Connecticut changes regulations to allow that.

The new bulbs are less than 3,000 lumens. There’s a slight change in hue from the old ones — but Ratkiewich calls it “hardly noticeable.”

Westporters have noticed some new lights though: Those that replaced burned out bulbs. Eversource had not been diligent about fixing them.

Now — having purchased the LED bulbs from the company — they’re the town’s responsibility.

Other municipalities throughout Connecticut are moving to LED bulbs too.

What a bright idea!

(Hat tip: Sherry Jagerson)

Unsung Hero #105

Last weekend’s double whammy — a wild, tree-limb-downing, power-outage- causing storm Saturday night; then an even more intense, violent and dangerous one just 18 hours later — stretched our resources to the limit.

On Sunday, the Fire Department responded to 80 calls in an hour. Police were everywhere. Emergency responders raced to deal with downed wires, trees on houses and in roads, even carbon monoxide issues.

For the rest of the day, and throughout Monday, the guys (and gals) whose business it is to handle emergencies like this did just that.

Quickly, efficiently — and often thanklessly — they restored electricity, cut trees, removed limbs, replaced wires, directed traffic, and got Westport back to normal.

A familiar scene. This is Greens Farms Road, at Rustic Lane. (Photo/Seth Schachter)

If you helped, you’re our Unsung Heroes of the Week. Without our firefighters, police, EMTs, traffic agents, Public Works crews, town engineers, utility workers. private contractors — and everyone who supports them — this town would be a mess.

You’re always there when we need you. Hopefully we won’t need you again for quite a while.

But somehow, I doubt it.

Ospreys and Regency Centers: VERY Interesting Sunday Afternoon Report

It appears now that Regency Centers — the owner of both the Fresh Terrain shopping plaza and Terrain — is the bad actor in yesterday’s removal of an osprey nest on a pole between the two properties.

Regency’s management company — or a sub-contractor — took down the nest. When confronted by Terrain employees, they claimed to be Audubon Society workers. They also did not have a permit from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. A permit is mandated by the Federal Migratory Bird Act of 1918.

But here’s where the story gets really interesting.

This Thursday, April 4 (7 p.m., Town Hall), Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission has a regularly scheduled meeting.

Agenda item #3 is a request by Regency Centers for “Westport Village Center” — aka the Fresh Market plaza — for “a Site Plan approval for proposed exterior alteration to the building façade and modifications to the parking lot for property located in RBD and Residence A zones, PID# E09068000.”

In other words: The illegal osprey nest removal in preparation for parking lot work was done prior to P&Z approval.

Regency Centers — owner of the Fresh Market plaza — will ask the P&Z on Thursday for permission to make changes to the facade and parking lot.

And here’s where the story gets even more interesting.

Thursday’s meeting is a public hearing. Westporters are welcome to attend — and speak.

(You can also make your feelings known by email before the meeting: pandz@westportct.gov.)

Regency is well known to Westport — and the P&Z. When Regency bought the Fresh Market plaza, they promised to plant trees in front, and install a sidewalk. That has not yet been done.

Regency also owns Compo Acres Shopping Center (anchored by Trader Joe’s). Westporters — particularly those living behind the back parking lot — have not forgotten the work-first-ask-questions-later job done on the retaining wall there.

A similar incident occurred in the back of yet another property owned by Regency: the shopping center across the street from Fresh Market.

Thursday’s P&Z meeting should be very interesting indeed.

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Meanwhile, back to the ospreys. Someone involved in the utility industry — who asked for anonymity based on the nature of his work — examined this morning’s photo of the removal of the nest. He writes:

The photo taken by the high school freshman of the bucket truck yesterday tells this old utility veteran several things.

This is a “streetlight” pole, set exclusively for mounting the 2 streetlights clearly shown in the photo, whose lights provide security lighting for Fresh Market’s parking lot.

12-year-old James Doan took this photo today, of an osprey at its old nest pole. His mother Carolyn says, “The male is flying around the female with sticks and possibly food. The cry is tough to hear.”

All streetlights are supplied by secondary wires, energized 100% of the time. So this pole has active power supplied to it — a safety hazard for anyone choosing to work on this pole top.

The utility always works with safety most paramount. If this contractor wanted to take this action they should have contacted the utility well in advance to get approval.

Since the utility erected the platform originally. I assume they would never have granted approval for this action. They also would never allow this contractor to work on their pole without authorization, and proof that the contractor is “qualified” to work on energized equipment.

Looks pretty clear that regardless of what DEEP or Audubon said to this contractor, they were also violating various rules and regulations of the utility and perhaps should be treated accordingly. License revocation? Fines? Local Westport electrical inspector might also be someone to get involved with this in that regard.

Unsung Heroes: Special Edition

After digging themselves out — and getting power back on — “06880” readers were eager to offer up a few Unsung Heroes. Usually we wait until Wednesday, but it’s nice to strike while the iron (if not the weather) is hot.

Gil Ghitelman — who must have gotten his power back quickly — writes: “I suggest a hat tip to Eversource. Consummate professionals.”

Chip Stephens nominates the baristas at Starbucks. Despite the snow, they were there bright and early with his morning Joe.

But the greatest Unsung Hero — so far, anyway — works at a different coffee shop. JP Vellotti tells this tale:

“Like a lot of people this snowy morning, I was shoveling since 5 a.m. Like a lot of people, I needed my coffee before the train.

“The new Mystic Market was closed. Winfield Street just closed too, and Desi’s is out.

“But Romanacci — which is just taking over from Winfield — had a makeshift counter, and one pot going. The line was long, but it went fast.”

Here’s the best part: The credit card machine isn’t set up yet. So Venlich Aguilar — who is staying on after Winfield Street leaves — asked people to pay cash, if they could. Round numbers, please — too many people, so no change.

And if you had no cash — no problem. Just come back later and pay!

A Question Of Energy

An alert — and suspicious — “06880” reader writes:

I received a $100 gift card offer from Constellation Energy for a transfer from Eversource. Yet they say Eversource will still provide service and billing.

Sounds like a no-lose deal — but I know there’s no such thing. I wonder if I’m missing something.

Do any savvy Westporters have a take on this?

Good News: South Compo/Bridge Street Now Open

Repairs were finished tonight to the South Compo/Bridge Street/Greens Farms Road section of town. Commuters will not have to navigate detours tomorrow morning, as had been feared.

Nearly 200 customers are still without power in Westport. Crews from as far as Louisiana are working with Eversource to restore full service.

Nor’easter!

Heavy rain, high winds, a full moon and high tides made for a messy Westport this morning.

Be prepared for more this afternoon.

Westport schools are closing 2 hours early. Stay safe and dry!

It’s all water underneath the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Another view of the Saugatuck River. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

A car tries to navigate Parker Harding Plaza. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Stores on the river side of Main Street. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Imperial Avenue is flooded. (Photo/Shari Lebowitz)

Long Island Sound laps up against Soundview Drive. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Another view of Soundview. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

High water on South Compo, near the Minute Man monument. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Ned Dimes Marina is higher than usual. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Southbound traffic on I-95 is near a standstill. This shot is from Hillspoint Road. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Eversource crews stand ready, at the Merritt Parkway exit 41 commuter parking lot. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Unsung Heroes #21

This week’s Unsung Heroes are obvious:

Sunday night’s storm was bad. At one point, nearly half of Westport was without electricity.

Did Eversource get your power back instantly? Were you the first house they hustled to?

Probably not. Even in Westport, not everyone can be #1.

But they had a lot to do. Most of the state was hit hard. The men and women who assessed damage, climbed buckets, even answered phones, were overwhelmed. They worked long hours, and did their best. We owe them our thanks.

Thanks too to all of Westport’s police, firefighters and other responders. Plus of course those invaluable public works crews, tree guys, and random folks who helped out, wherever and however they could.

Slowly, we’re getting back to normal.

Until the next storm hits.

Welcome Back!

Westport’s favorite winter snowbird has returned home.

Okay. This snowbird is actually an osprey bird.

Alert — and nature-loving – “06880” reader Wendy Crowther spotted the much-loved raptor this morning. He was perched at his usual spot: the nesting platform near Fresh Market.

(He started out here on a utility pole. But in 2014 Eversource — then called CL&P — relocated the nest a few yards away, to avoid short circuits. The original pole now has a black protector, making it unsuitable for nesting.)

So far we haven’t seen his mate. Perhaps this year they traveled separately.

Wendy Crowther was driving this morning, and could not get a photo of the osprey. But here’s what the osprey looked like just over a year ago — on March 26, 2016. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

Chopper!

It’s one thing to read on “06880” that Eversource is using helicopters with high-res cameras to inspect transmission lines, looking for problems like lightning strikes and corrosion.

It’s another thing entirely to actually see one hovering outside your window.

Helicopter over Westport

An alert — and frightened — “06880” reader writes:

That was right outside my front door, near Hillspoint Road. It was so loud and low. It really scared me, since I thought it would crash. It would have been nice if the residents were alerted.

Consider this your alert.

Meanwhile, does anyone know anything about the helicopters that regularly fly over town, usually at 7 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.? I’ve always thought they belonged to some very wealthy Westporter, commuting to and from work.

If you know anything more — or, even better, if you’re That Guy — click “Comments” below.