Milford electric station closing

MILFORD – Storm-related power outages have become regular events over the last decade or so, and selectmen were not happy to learn recently that Eversource, formerly Public Service of New Hampshire, plans to close its Elm Street station. The work crews stationed in Milford will move to Bedford. Town Administrator Mark Bender called the move part of a strategy to improve customer service and response times to outages. The average time to restore power has gone from 180 to 104 minutes, which is a lot better than the previous average of three hours, he told selectmen last week.

No one thinks it’s good news that Eversource is moving out of the Milford area, he said at the April 11 selectmen’s meeting, "but they have a plan," he said. Without the Elm Street station, which has been here since the early 1970s, there will be no crews stationed between Bedford and Nashua or Keene, selectmen said – although new technology is helping the utility locate problems faster.

But "at the end of the day, it’s bodies that get the power back on," Chairman Mark Fougere said. "I don’t see this being a plus for us at all." Vice Chairman Gary Daniels agreed: "Eversource is not Uber. There are not going to be trucks driving around waiting for something to happen." Milford officials say they will write a letter to the Public Utilities Commission and reach out to other towns.

Eversource spokesman Martin Murray said closing the station is part of a new program that will improve service. The power company is consolidating, not reducing, its workforce, he said, and Milford is now covered by troubleshooting teams working 24 hours a day, seven days a week,

In the past, crew members would work a full day and then be on call. "Now, a substantial part of the state is covered by several of the 24/7 troubleshooting teams" working 365 days a year, Murray said. "In a way, we are the Uber of electric service," with 18 crews working where the jobs are. In December 2014, Eversource opened a new systems operating center in Manchester that is monitored by engineers who can quickly pinpoint problems and dispatch crews, he said. There are now two side-by-side centers, one for the electric distribution system and one for the transmission system, both staffed by separate crews 24/7. In and around Milford, Eversource has been automating and sectionalizing its system, which means when an outage occurs, it affects fewer customers. "If a pole is hit or there’s a limb on a wire, it doesn’t impact as many, and we can switch power from one source to another," Murray said.

He said the company has hired additional personnel. "I think it will be a home run for Milford and the surrounding region," Murray said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.