Back on December 20, 2011, I sent a correspondence concerning an official letter submitted to the Department of Public Utilities by Selectman Priscilla Gimas and myself. In that letter I closed with a commitment to facilitate discussions with National Grid as follows: "In addition to the path available to us via the Public Hearings, a meeting is forthcoming after the holidays with members of National Grid's executive management staff and some representatives from our community to better identify the challenges faced, develop cooperative efforts to address same, and to foster a coordinated approach to any future events".
Today, a meeting initiated and coordinated at my behest took place between executive level management staff from National Grid and representatives from the Town of Sturbridge. Those involved from Sturbridge included Town Administrator Shaun Suhoski, DPW Director Greg Morse, Sturbridge Police Lt. Mark Saloio and myself. The meeting was extremely detailed and highly productive, resulting in a number of issues/challenges being addressed in a highly cooperative, proactive, and positive manner. All of those in attendance provided a great deal of insight, experience, and detail that covered every aspect of the challenges facing our community, as well as those faced by National Grid. Both entities were well represented and the residents of Sturbridge can be assured that Mr. Suhoski, Mr. Morse, and Lt. Saloio and myself advocated strongly on behalf of our residents. In lieu of providing an exhaustive accounting of the meeting, I will summarize the discussions as follows:
- It was mutually agreed that Sturbridge will develop and establish a priority list of critical infrastructure/priority needs that will serve as the basis for mutual disaster response efforts within the Town and that this "Priority List" will dictate our collective efforts, thus ensuring the highest level of response coordination.
- Measures specifically designed to improve communication and coordination will be developed and forwarded to National Grid for review/consideration within the next two weeks in an effort to facilitate a mutually-shared, outcome-based approach to local disaster management.
- Collectively, we will work towards greater inclusion of National Grid staff (e.g. Liaison's, emergency management personnel) in local preparedness planning/efforts providing an opportunity for a more proactive and robust incident management approach in terms of local remediation efforts.
- National Grid liaisons assigned to Sturbridge, as well as other communities, will be receiving Incident Management Training and will be provided with the information, authority, and discretion necessary to operate as a fully functioning component of our local emergency response efforts. This will help to ensure a stronger level of coordination and cooperation between both entities and will strengthen the collaboration of our local efforts.
- We have agreed to future and ongoing meetings designed to enhance our working relationships, while providing greater opportunity for a partnership in developing response capabilities that enhance our mutual efforts - simultaneously strengthening our collective efforts in terms of community preparation and restoration.
- At my request National Grid has agreed to a joint live-broadcast educational presentation involving National Grid and local public officials designed to highlight the individual and collective steps both entities are taking to ensure a more robust and proactive approach to disaster/incident management. This live-broadcast presentation will take place within the next 6 weeks and will be used as a blueprint for future collaborative efforts between us. It will also highlight some of the lessons learned as a direct result of interaction between National Grid staff and local residents/responders.
- Additional information is forthcoming as the actual date is better identified. In the interim, we invite questions/comments to be forwarded to myself or the Town Administrator that we can direct them to National Grid in an effort to ensure the most productive, detailed, and positive presentation possible that serves to our community's best interests.
I can say without hesitation that the management staff on hand today, demonstrated a genuine and deep commitment to addressing the local issues attendant to our community and are anxious to work with us towards developing a partnership that enhances our local capabilities, while proactively reducing challenges that may have previously hindered a more coordinated and collaborative approach on both sides. I, and those in attendance from Sturbridge are grateful to Aleta Fazzone - Director, Community & Customer Management, Trina Dombroski - Manager, Community & Customer Management, and Paul Sibley - Manager, Overhead Lines, Operations New England East for their efforts today and we look forward to the development of a greater partnership that is grounded in mutually-shared priorities for our community.