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United Illuminating surveys about storm response

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News,Science and Technology

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — The United Illuminating Co. is surveying customers to find out what they thought of the utility's work restoring power during and after Superstorm Sandy.

The New Haven Register reports (http://bit.ly/SdPbWF) that the firm's telephone survey began last week and was expected to end soon.

"We think it's important to understand what our customers think, what their expectations for us are and how they think we can do things better to manage the business," spokesman Michael West said.

Among the questions UI was asking is how much more customers would be willing to pay for electricity to bury power lines underground.

West said the utility has not estimated the cost of putting lines underground to avoid outages caused by falling trees or limbs. But asking customers if they are willing to pay more links higher costs with improved service following extreme storms, he said.

"It helps to understand when you connect the two points," he said.

Mitch Gross, a spokesman for Connecticut Light & Power, said the utility estimated last year the cost of placing electric lines underground at $3.6 million per mile, depending on location, soil and other conditions. Stringing wires overhead costs $800,000 to $850,000 per mile, he said.

The two utilities won praise from state officials for working quickly to restore power following the Oct. 29 storm. United Illuminating kept its promise to restore power to 95 percent or more of its customers before midnight on Nov. 5.

UI serves 325,000 customers in 17 towns in the New Haven area and Bridgeport. At its peak following Sandy, the utility had 187,000 customers without power.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and a few officials in other municipalities criticized the utility for not restoring power more quickly to residents and businesses.

UI had said Bridgeport residents in a few instances harassed line workers, including throwing eggs at trucks.

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Information from: New Haven Register, http://www.nhregister.com

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