, Derry, New Hampshire

June 27, 2013

Editorial: Keep the heat on PSNH

Derry News

---- — It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy. Winter storms, ice-coated trees and whipping winds are but a distant memory for most as the heat and humidity build.

But those memories are all too fresh for Londonderry officials. Town leaders are spending some warm weather hours looking back at stormier days and doing what they can to avoid repeating them.

While officials can’t control the weather, there’s plenty they can do to make it easier for residents to get through winter storms.

The first step was a no-brainer.

Londonderry High School often is used as a regional shelter when storms strike and the power goes out.

But some residents hunker down at home in the cold and dark because they don’t want to leave their pets behind. That’s especially true of some older residents, who are more vulnerable during extended outages, according to acting fire Chief Darren O’Brien.

Town Councilor Joe Green, the liaison to the Elder Affairs Committee, said it’s an issue that keeps surfacing.

Officials listened and now plans are nearly finalized for a pet shelter in the lower level locker room at the high school. Animals would have to be crated and their owners responsible for their food and care.

It’s a plan that’s worked at Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston and should mean more people take advantage of Londonderry’s emergency shelter when the inevitable winter storms strike again.

The second step isn’t quite as easy, nor is it entirely within the town’s control. But it’s one the town needs to address: the shoddy performance of Public Service of New Hampshire.

Town Councilor Tom Dolan got things rolling when he brought up the utility’s less-than-stellar performance at a recent meeting.

“I think the unreliable performance and service is becoming remarkable,” Dolan said.

He’s right.

Communication has improved over the last few years, but extended outages continue to be the norm in Londonderry. To its credit, the town has gotten much better about communicating with residents during fierce storms, and PSNH has improved, too.

But going four, five, even seven days without power is unacceptable during a harsh New Hampshire winter.

PSNH officials appeared before the Town Council last week to provide an overview of the work being done in Londonderry and its efforts to improve service and communication.

It’s a start.

A PSNH representative told councilors the utility has spent $4.3 million in the southern region, 37 percent of that in Londonderry. Much more work is planned.

That’s all fine and dandy if it improves service and reduces outages. But there’s a reason such a hefty share of the money spent has been spent in Londonderry: It has one of the worst outage records in the region.

Customers pay for electricity and when the lights go out, they want to know why and when power will be restored. They should expect no less.

Dolan and other town officials are right to demand answers from PSNH and they should keep the heat on throughout the summer.

A “we’re trying” response isn’t good enough; PSNH needs to do better.