After sitting through 10 hours of testimony and questioning of Eversource officials, Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker finally got his turn in front of the legislature's Energy Committee. The committee heard from two municipal officials during their more than 12 hour hearing into Eversource storm response. One represented the Connecticut Conference of the Municipalities and the other was the Knickerbocker, president of the Council of Small Towns.
Knickerbocker was upset with comments from Eversource officials earlier in the day. He says the fact that they didn't recognize the people they serve in their mission statement was very telling. He added that a regulated monopoly is supposed to have one foot in the public sector and one foot in the private sector for funding. Knickerbocker says that relationship is gone.
He called Eversource a company making decision based solely on its bottom line.
Knickerbocker also termed the updated liaison program dysfunctional. There used to be one high ranking official dedicated to each town, but now they're not executives and deal with multiple towns. He told lawmakers he was tempted to think it's a deliberate attempt to keep municipal CEOs at bay, giving them someone to talk to and think the first selectmen getting somewhere. But he cautioned, that's not the case because the liaisons no longer have support from senior management.
Knickerbocker didn't mince words after CEO Jim Judge said the utility doesn't reimburse customers for lost food and medicine after prolonged outages because it's not mandated. He told lawmakers they can't expect Eversource to do things out of the goodness of their heart; instead incentivize them to do things and disincentivize them to do the opposite.
Knickerbocker also challenged Regional President Craig Hallstrom's comments that sounded dismissive of municipalities saying the towns can't be trusted to identify the right priorities. He says that's contrary to everything done in the last decade and defended local decisions saying municipal leaders don't prioritize indiscriminately. He added that they know the difference between a road that has no other egress, and one where residents can take a longer route out. Knickerbocker says Eversource made restoration decisions that made their numbers look better and not decisions to protect the public.