Foxborough Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis is angry – as are many of the residents – following the town’s third significant power outage over the last year caused by a storm.
“This is the third time now and I’m sick of it,” DeVellis said. “I’m tired of it. The same thing being said now [by National Grid regarding the power outages] was said last year.”
DeVellis and other Foxborough officials vented their frustrations to National Grid liaison Tom Coughlin Tuesday, calling the power outage situation a bad running “joke” for the town.
“When the newspapers and television crews set up on our Common the day before [the storm] to say, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen to Foxborough,’ it’s almost a joke,” DeVellis said. … I don’t know what it is about Foxborough that makes it the big joke of electricity but it can’t continue.”
According to Coughlin - and explained by Town Manager Kevin Paicos - what it is about Foxborough that makes it susceptible to power outages is the Union Loop.
“The primary problem to the extent that we were out of power until now is not local trees,” Paicos said. “Primary problem is outside of town borders and is once again the so-called Union Loop, which sync large transmission lines like the giant 200-foot towers that you see come into a large sub-station in Attleboro. From Attleboro, another line known as the Union Loop, which is literally a loop, distributes power like spokes off a wheel. Our power comes from that Union Loop.”
Paicos said two cross-country towers blew over Monday, which feed the Attleboro sub-station, forcing Foxborough to lose power.
“Union Loop has 12 sections to it and five of those sections were compromised in some way. ... That was what was responsible for most of the community being without power.”
That same Union Loop was responsible for both power outages following storms last year and is an issue that needs to be addressed between the town and National Grid moving forward.
“Saying it’s the Union Loop and we’re going to try better next year is not going to work,” DeVellis said. “The businesses are tired of it … I’m tired of it.”
Paicos called the situation with the Union Loop “outrageous” and said the town needs to address the problem much sooner rather than later.
“I think in the days to come, what we will need to ascertain is how National Grid allowed the Union Loop to once again be compromised,” Paicos said. … “It was absolutely clear that the Union Loop was the weak point in the system.”
Paicos told selectmen National Grid spent “a great deal of time” working on the Union Loop because maintenance had been neglected on the loop for years, which resulted in the two outages last year.
“[The repairs were] not done to the degree of success that would have assured [the town] we would not suffer a fairly significant power outage.”
DeVellis along with board members Lynda Walsh and Lorraine Brue were without power Tuesday morning following a storm that Foxborough Fire Chief Roger Hatfield and Paicos said produced “fairly minimal conditions.” The message from the town to the utility company Tuesday was clear – enough is enough.
“We’ve got businesses, we’ve got families, we’ve got schools cancelled,” DeVellis said. “I went to the DPU and testified and all we heard was Union Loop. … This is unacceptable and I’m tired of it.”
Further frustrating selectmen was the fact that neighboring towns – once again – experienced minimal outages during and after a storm.
“I checked with Mansfield and while we lost 75 percent their number was 38,” DeVellis said. “It wasn’t 38 percent, it was 38 customers and by 10 p.m. they were all up and running.”
Said Walsh: “I’m driving to work and going through Sharon and it’s all lit up and Stoughton is all lit up and Canton is all lit up and my little town I’m leaving in the dark. It’s frustration.”
Paicos said this is a major concern for the town moving forward because there will be more storms in the future.
“We’ve got to get this fix so it doesn’t happen again because we are certainly going to have additional storms,” Paicos said.
DeVellis said he didn’t know what the town’s options were presently but that the board will have those discussions.
“I don’t know what our options are,” DeVellis said. “The easiest thing would be to say privatize it but it’s not going to happen right now. … I don’t know what we are going to do but it is going to start at this table, we are just sick and tired of it.”
In the more immediate future, the Board of Selectmen has requested a visit by National Grid president Marcy Reed.
“I see a lot of promises, what ifs and we’ll be there [from National Grid] but at the end of the day it goes away and we are left without electricity,” DeVellis said. … “[I’d like to request] someone from National Grid to come in front of the Board of Selectmen and provide answers to questions.”
Coughlin said he would relay the message to National Grid and offered continued apologies for the situation.
“I can’t say enough how sorry we are,” Coughlin said. “If we are saying things and giving false hope and the things we say we fixed didn’t get fixed well then obviously those are questions we have to answer.”
TELL US: Are you fed up with National Grid? What do you think the town needs to do in order to address this issue?