2020 has been a difficult year for all of us, but our community continues to come together to help one another throughout all the challenges we faced. The most recent storm's devastation to our town caused more than half of our residents to lose power and will leave many of us cleaning up the damage for days and weeks ahead.
STORM RESPONSE UPDATE:
In my recent communications to you, I've made it very clear to you my level of frustration and disappointment in the utility companies including UI, Altice and Frontier. The bottom line is their customer service and communication was severely lacking.
Many of our residents are still without Wi-Fi, which is very challenging while many of you are working from home. Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity. I expect utilities to provide reliable service to all of us as their customers, and more importantly to be available when it is not. I have forwarded your emails and complaints to representatives at Altice (the parent company for Optimum) so they are fully aware of the problems our residents are facing with their service. This is on the heels of sending out a survey to residents and sending a letter expressing our collective frustration to Altice's CEO just prior to the storm.
Altice reported 2.91% of Connecticut residents are without their service as of this morning and they tell me they are working as quickly as possible to get our residents who are offline back up and running. We have asked them for outages specific to Fairfield but haven't yet received that information. I will work with our state delegation to have a better understanding of the cable company's responsibilities and to determine if they are abiding by the rules that the Public Utility Regulating Authority (PURA) has in place. I've included some troubleshooting tips from Altice at the bottom of this newsletter for your information.
PURA is statutorily charged with regulating the rates and services of Connecticut's investor owned electricity, natural gas, water and telecommunication companies and is the franchising authority for the state’s cable television companies. If you would like to file a complaint with PURA, you can do so here.
I have received a number of emails and social media comments about burying power lines underground. In 2011, the state commissioned a report on the costs and benefits of doing so. The report states, "...building a new overhead distribution line costs between $136,000 and $197,000 per mile, depending on several factors including population density of the area served (urban areas being the most expensive). The cost of new underground lines ranges between $409,000 and $559,000 per mile."
Aside from the cost, burying the lines could take decades to complete, and during outages the underground wires can be more difficult to repair. While the study is old and I'm certain the costs will be significant, the report also states that it would reduce power outages, tree trimming costs and reduce the risk of live wires harming residents. I imagine this is a debate that will be reinvigorated after this storm. The projected costs appear to be prohibitive but I am always willing to listen to all sides of a debate, and to other new ideas.
Finally, with regard to the storm response, I know many residents have trees and debris in their yards and have asked if the town can pick them up. Our DPW crews have been working extremely hard over the last week to remove trees and debris from roadways and on town property. I am happy to have DPW assist residents where they can over the next few weeks to haul residents' debris from the curb but it's going to take time. DPW has to resume normal duties that were put on hold during the storm while also continuing clean up efforts over the next few weeks. Please be patient.
Some helpful items:
- Free public Wi-Fi areas exist throughout town in populated areas. If you know your user name and password, you can gain access in those networks. Find the hot spots here: https://www.optimum.net/internet/hotspots/.
- Public Wi-Fi is available at Fairfield Middle and High School Parking Lots: Network name: FPS_Guest | Password: Guest0413
- We Care Denali is open and free for residents to drop off debris and trees. Contractors without proof of Fairfield residence will have to pay to dump there.
The Town of Fairfield has 726 residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 and a total of 145 of our residents have sadly lost their lives. Of the 726 residents who have tested positive in Fairfield, 345 have reported that they have fully recovered and 202 are assumed recovered.
Charts and data on Fairfield cases including age, gender, nursing home statistics, testing samples, and different trend lines can be found at fairfieldct.org/covid19data.
Traveling? Please take the time to check the CT Travel Advisory page to know what states are on the list as most impacted. If you travel to these states, you are asked to quarantine for 14-days upon return to protect the members of our community.
One of the key tools we have to contain the spread of COVID-19 is Contact Tracing. For this initiative to be successful, the Health Department needs the cooperation of residents who test positive for COVID-19. The primary purpose of contact tracing is to identify and notify direct contacts of confirmed cases as quickly as possible and to ensure those exposed are self-quarantining. The information provided in the interviews with confirmed cases helps reduce the potential spread of the virus in our community.
There have been delays in reporting positive tests to the local health departments. Any Fairfield resident who tests positive for COVID-19 and has not received a phone call from the Fairfield Health Department or the Connecticut COVID Tracing system within 24 hours of receiving their result is urged to contact the Fairfield Health Department at 203-256-3022. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 please call your medical provider or the Fairfield Health Department for more information on testing locations and isolation guidelines. The Fairfield Health Department thanks all Fairfield residents for doing their part in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Contact Tracing video - https://youtu.be/G1g5oYUmYHY
Quarantine/Isolation video - https://youtu.be/h-sXNFc06lY
SCHOOLS & COVID-19
Fairfield Public Schools
Many parents have written to me with concerns about the reopening of Fairfield schools. The decision regarding school reopening is under the authority of the school administrators and the Board of Education, in accordance with the state guidelines. The Emergency Management Planning Team met twice with the schools' representatives to discuss procedures and offer the town's help wherever possible. Certainly this is not an easy process and many families have different opinions and situations. I know is especially difficult for families with both parents working full time. You can visit the FPS website to learn more about their 2020 reopening plans. Also on the homepage is a link to a virtual meeting Wednesday night at 7 p.m. for parents to participate in.
Students are scheduled to return to school on September 8th in a hybrid format with partial in person learning and partial virtual learning. After 4 weeks, the reopening plan will be reevaluated for plans moving forward. I welcome your input but suggest you share your questions and concerns with school administrators. Here is a link to contact information.
Fairfield University & Sacred Heart University:
The Town of Fairfield is lucky to have two outstanding universities in our town that contribute to the local economy and provide an intelligent workforce to the area. I know many residents are concerned about the return of students to campus. The Emergency Management Planning Team met with representatives from both Fairfield University and Sacred Heart yesterday. I am very pleased to say they are both meeting or exceeding the state guidance. Here are highlights:
- All students and employees will be tested prior to arrival on campus
- All students coming from locations listed on travel advisories will be required to quarantine
- Staggered move in schedules will be followed to manage crowd size and reduce exposures
- Students and employees will be randomly tested each week
-All students and staff will have to complete daily health checks via an app and have to show their passing health check prior to entry to classes
- There will be training for all students and staff
- Numerous changes are being made to encourage social distancing on campus and limit gatherings
- Both universities have strict guidelines and consequences for violating policies on having parties on campus or off campus. Gatherings are severely limited and a second offense will cause immediate dismissal from school
- Face coverings are required and provided along with hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies in common areas
- All sports programs and performances have been postponed
- Visitors to campus will be limited
- There are isolation, quarantine procedures, and contact tracing procedures in place
- Both universities have a shutdown plan if necessary
The town will continue to work closely with both universities to ensure the safety for our residents and students calling Fairfield home.
State Representative Laura Devlin joined me yesterday to check the COVID protocols at some of our polling places and discuss some of the shortcomings with the absentee ballot program. While voter turnout appeared to be low, I think it was a good test run for our election officials in preparation for the November elections. The polling locations were fully prepared and safe for voters and it was good to see so many of our residents sign up to work the polls. Representative Devlin and I also discussed the storm response and how we are going to address UI and Altice's abysmal customer service going forward.
|I am happy to report that as of 4:00 p.m. yesterday all residents in our town had their power restored. I am aware that 1,500 customers lost their power this morning for a brief period and UI was on the ground quickly. I'm told the majority have been restored and any remaining outages are being addressed.
I know it took far too long for UI to restore power during this recent storm and I promise I will share our experiences in a post storm review with the Governor, and I look forward to the Governor's investigation into the electric utilities.
We're in this together,
Brenda L. Kupchick
Fairfield First Selectwoman
|ALTICE (OPTIMUM) TROUBLESHOOTING
Once power has been restored to your home, your Optimum services should be back up and running. If you experienced a loss of power, it is best to restart your equipment using the following steps:
• Unplug your equipment from its power source.
• Wait 30 seconds.
• Plug your equipment back into the power source.
If your service does not return after restarting, it is possible that:
• The power that feeds our network in your area comes from a different commercial power source than the power that feeds your home or business location or there is another issue relating to network power that needs to be addressed. We are coordinating with the electric companies to identify these issues and ensure prioritization of repair or restoration.
• There is damage to the Optimum network, like a downed utility pole or wire break, and our crews are proactively working to rectify this type of damage to restore service.
We have created the opportunity for customers check on service status online by doing the following:
• Go to optimum.net/support/outage and sign in with Optimum ID and password. Next, under Support, located in the upper right corner, click "Service status"
Report Service Issues:
If you are experiencing a service issue, we have created four channels for you to advise us of your issue. Contacting Optimum via any of these channels will result in a trouble ticket being created that will direct a repair team to assess and address the issue:
• Visit optimum.net/support/outage
• Message Optimum at optimum.net/chat
• Send Tweet to @Optimumhelp
• Call (866) 950-3278
Request A Credit:
Customers may submit a request for a credit by completing the information at optimum.net/support/request-a-credit
|TAX FREE WEEK
Back to School means tax free savings with Connecticut’s Tax Free Week beginning Sunday, August 16 and running through Saturday August 22, 2020. During this one-week sales tax holiday, retail purchases of most clothing and footwear items priced under $100 are exempt from the sales and use tax. According to the CT Department of Revenue Services, the exemption applies to each eligible item under $100, regardless of how many of those items are sold to a customer on the same invoice.