HILLSBOROUGH — With Public Service of New Hampshire announcing it will close its work station in Hillsborough, area officials are concerned not having the station nearby could pose a danger.
PSNH spokesman Martin Murray said the electric utility has decided to close the Hillsborough station and relocate its trucks and 15 employees to other locations in Bedford, Keene and Newport. Murray said the work stations serve as a starting point for the day-to-day operations of line crews.
“They come in, get their work orders for the day, and go out and do maintenance, repairs or installations,” he said. “During the day, there are linemen all over the Hillsborough area.”
But some local officials say that if the work station is moved out of town, response times of line crews in emergencies will be extended, placing citizens in danger and reducing business productivity in town.
According to Hillsborough Fire Chief Kenneth Stafford, his primary concern about the move is not the big emergencies such as floods and blizzards, but the smaller incidents like car accidents and fires. Stafford believes the work station’s present location reduces the time it takes to get line crews to the scene to shut off power or remove power lines before other emergency responders can do their jobs.
“With the larger emergencies, PSNH floods the area with line crews,” said Stafford. “What I’m worried about is how long it is going to take us to get someone to shut off power at the pole so we can get to a patient in a car accident.”
State Rep. Gilman Shattuck said he’s also worried about the financial impact any delays to restore power could have on businesses in Hillsborough.
Shattuck said the local Sylvania plant, the area’s largest employer, manufactures products that are shipped by truck for immediate use. Any delay in restoring power could mean a delay in production, Shattuck said, and that’s bad for business and the town.
“If under the new PSNH coverage scheme, a pattern of power outages develops, this would not be acceptable,” Shattuck said. “We could lose this plant to a location where the power supply is assured.”
Murray said that during the normal work day, response times to emergencies wouldn’t change much regardless of where the work station is located because crews are out on the road.
If a crew is working in Henniker doing maintenance on the lines, and a driver hits a telephone pole in Hillsborough, the crew will drop what they’re doing and head to the scene of the accident.
“Emergencies take priority, and we get there as quickly as possible,” Murray said.
In the overnight hours, however, emergency response is in the hands of on-call linemen.
In some cases, those workers leave their homes in a pickup truck and get to a scene faster than by bringing a large truck from the work station.
But Murray said PSNH is taking a second look at response times of the utility’s larger equipment after listening to the concerns of local officials and residents.
“We’re very cognizant of the concerns expressed by the emergency responders, and we will be taking that information into consideration while we’re refining our plan for relocating the work station,” he said.