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Utility Apologizes For Power Outages Last Month

Power company UNITIL is apologizing to the thousands of customers who lost power for up to 12 days after the December 11th ice storm.

In a letter to customers, the utility says it's sorry for the outages that effected all of the company's Massachusetts customers and 60% of its New Hampshire customers.

The utility company says the storm "extraordinarily severe damage to major electrical circuits" that made it hard to restore power quickly.

But Massachusetts State Representative Stephen DiNatale of Fitchburg says the company didn't prepare well enough for the storm.

"It's going to take significantly more than a letter of apology to right the outrageous performance that they demonstrated during that storm," Dinatale says. "It's a weak attempt at trying again to rebuild that relationship with their customers."

Rep. DiNatale says UNITIL needs to be replaced with a new power company. He says Fitchburg residents have had a long list of complaints against the company, including what they say are unfair rates.

In the town of Lunenberg, a grassroots effort is underway to try to convince officials to switch power companies.

So far, 300 residents have signed a petition to drop UNITIL.

"Whatever comes out of this, we need to ensure to our residents that there is indeed going to be better communication should a storm like this," says Tom Alonzo, the chairman of the Lunenburg Board of Selectmen. "Even if it comes over 30 [or] 40 years, [we need to ensure] that we have a response and that we have tightly knit communications so people can set their expectations correctly."

The long delay in getting customers back online prompted Governor Deval Patrick to call for an investigation into UNITIL's response.

UNITIL did not return calls for comment.

This program aired on January 1, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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