City Council President Jackie Hardy, citing "what seems to be a never-ending series of power outages," is proposing the creation of a Cape Ann Caucus to discuss what she called "our mutual lack of access to electrical service."
Making clear that her proposal was still being refined, Hardy said Tuesday she hopes to bring together officials from the city and surrounding towns to talk with National Grid, which supplies electric power throughout the area.
"Working collaboratively with our state delegation, as well as other elected officials on Cape Ann, we should be able to bring National Grid to the table for some clear responses to our questions," Hardy wrote in a prepared statement. "Hopefully, by uniting with other Cape Ann communities, we will have strength in numbers to allow our voices to be heard loud and clear."
A power outage Sunday that covered sections of the city around Washington Street, Maplewood Avenue and their side streets south of Grant Circle was the third major breakdown in the area over the last five weeks.
The latest major outage initially cut power to some 2,800 customers, according to National Grid officials. But while the majority were restored within some 90 minutes, about 250 customers remained in the dark for more than nine hours.
Prior to last week's day-after-Christmas snowstorm, another major failure — a weather- and equipment-related failure reportedly tied to a transformer explosion near the Beverly-Salem bridge — left all of Cape Ann and other parts of the North Shore in the dark for several hours on the night of Monday, Nov. 29.
"This has become much more than a nuisance," Hardy said. "Public safety for our constituents is in jeopardy every time we lose power — and it is happening too frequently.
"I have hopes that National Grid, and the other Cape Ann communities will accept our invitation for a caucus," she added.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk said Tuesday she liked the idea.
"I completely support pulling in the stakeholders from the surrounding communities," Kirk added.
National Grid spokeswoman Debbie Drew said via e-mail the utility company would be willing to meet with city and other Cape Ann officials.
"Our top priority always is public safety and assuring that we safely and reliably deliver electricity to our customers," Drew said. "We strive to work hand and hand with local officials and will answer any questions the communities we serve may have."
Gloucester leaders and residents aren't the only ones raising questions regarding National Grid's service and emergency response.
Last week, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities announced it will conduct an investigation to evaluate National Grid's preparation for the post-Christmas snowstorm and its efforts to restore electric power in regions that experienced outages.
Both Kirk and Hardy said Tuesday that, ideally, a regional caucus with National Grid could be sponsored by the city's legislators, Republican Sen. Bruce Tarr and Democratic Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante.
Hardy, who lives on Cherry Street, said power disruptions have been especially difficult in her section of the city.
"Ward 4 has been hit particularly hard ... I have received more calls from constituents during the past months related to power failures than I have during my previous two terms as councilor," she wrote.
"As a result, I have reached out to other councilors about the situation and although many councilors have not experienced as many outages as Ward 4 — nor the duration of the outages — they are concerned as well. These outages are a definite drain on our core city services and is costing Gloucester dearly," Hardy added.
With legislators stated to be sworn into office today, Hardy said she was poised to move forward.
"Once I hear back from Sen. Tarr and Rep. Ferrante, we will be reaching out to Rockport, Essex and Manchester to invite them to the table," Hardy indicated.
Francis X. Quinn can be reached at 978-283-7000 x 3455 or email@example.com.