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NStar fields complaints about Back Bay outage

Residents lament loss of wages and groceries

ARAM BOGHOSIAN FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

NStar’s Timothy Ceurvels (left) and David Matthews (right) spoke with William Buckley Monday at the Boston Public Library.

Some residents told harrowing stories of losing groceries and turning to homeless shelters for help when they came to NStar’s information center, which was opened Monday in the Boston Public Library for people affected by power outages that shut down the Back Bay area last week.

Jacqueline Evans, 43, who lives with her four children in an apartment on Westland Avenue in the Fenway area, said she had to go to a homeless shelter for assistance in feeding her family when her groceries were spoiled in the outage.

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“When you have four kids and the lights are out, you feel helpless,’’ she said.

Lori Berardino, 48, a Navy veteran who lives in a studio apartment on Blackwood Street, said she lost about $175 worth of groceries in the outage.

Berardino, who is on disability, said she stayed in her apartment two nights without power but then went to a veterans shelter for a night when someone tried to break into her place.

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Berardino said she was disappointed that her building’s power was restored only after other affected areas had been taken care of.

“There’s some people who were so disenchanted, we actually want to move out of the neighborhood,’’ she said. “Because it was a very distinct visual of the haves and have-nots and . . . who was taken care of first.’’

Berardino said company representatives at the library told her they will look into her concerns, but she was not confident anything would be done.

More than 21,000 customers lost power after a fire broke out in a utility substation last Tuesday night on Scotia Street in the Back Bay. Most residents had power back by Thursday, many via generators. Planned outages to facilitate the transition back to full permanent power have continued, though the company said that service has been fully restored.

Only about 15 people had come to the information center Monday by the time it prepared to close at 8 p.m.

NStar plans to keep it open Tuesday and Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Boston Public Library in Copley Square to give customers information about filing claims for certain financial losses and to provide information on the status of the restoration effort.

Claim forms are available at the information center and also on NStar’s website.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a statement Monday that the city is pleased the utility’s charitable foundation has donated $10,000 in emergency aid to low-income elderly residents and families affected by the outage.

“Some of these residents can’t afford to grocery-shop more than a couple of times a month, and this event has caused them some serious hardship,’’ he said.

Menino said the funds will be distributed through the Boston Elderly Commission and other neighborhood networks.

Last week, Menino called for the utility to reimburse local businesses for lost revenue and inventory during the outage, but NStar replied that it does not make such reimbursements.

Caroline Pretyman, a spokeswoman for the utility, said Monday that NStar would cover costs for towing, property damage incurred during restoration, and smoke or fire damage for vehicles at the scene of the fire.

Asked if the company would reimburse the city for overtime costs for police and other public employees, Pretyman would only say that NStar is focused on repairing the power system and would address other issues when that process is complete.

Franco Marzo, 45, manager of Emack & Bolio’s ice cream shop at Park Plaza, was among the visitors to the information center Monday. He said the store lost a sizable sum, about $10,000, during the outage.

He said he was disappointed by NStar’s statements that it would not reimburse businesses for lost income, especially since affected businesses pad the utility’s bottom line.

“We are a big city for them,’’ Marzo said of NStar. “We give them good business.’’

Kifle Alemu, 35, of Roxbury, said he lost two days of wages as a parking-lot attendant at Niketown on Newbury Street. NStar has said it will not reimburse workers for lost wages.

“It is tough,’’ said Alemu, who figures he lost about $160 in wages, adding that “I can’t afford’’ not to work.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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