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Grosse Pointe Woods

April 16, 2014

Residents continue fight to get power outages addressed in Woods

By April Lehmbeck
C & G Staff Writer

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Several dozen residents stopped by Big Boy on Mack early this month to see what they could do to help push things along concerning the power outage situation that some in the city have been battling for years.

It was a meeting set up by Woods Council member Kevin Ketels, Shannon Mach and Big Boy owner Dan Curis. They started the group Fix Circuit 1481 and have launched a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/fixcircuit1481, and Web page, www.ketels.us/FixCircuit1481.html. There are several links on the website for more information, including a chronology link on the history of that circuit and an April 4 letter from DTE Energy in response to resident concerns and questions raised at the meeting.

“We’re going to be very focused in our efforts,” Ketels said of the group’s plans.

Ketels said the city, mayor and council have been working with DTE on these issues, as well.

During the meeting, the organizers informed residents that there are ways they can fight back against the recurring power outages and related problems in that circuit’s neighborhood.

Residents and businesses on that circuit, which is made up of the area north of Vernier and east of Mack, have been left sitting in the dark many times over the years with damaged appliances and lost food, as well as other losses, which they have said were not compensated.

They also have raised concerns about safety on that circuit.

The group is working on a letter-writing campaign to state legislators and others to keep their voices heard concerning their problems with DTE.

They created letter templates to help residents, but they asked that residents not send form letters.

“Put a little effort into it,” Council member Art Bryant said during the meeting.

The group also asked residents to tell their stories about how the outages have impacted them.

“That is one of the most powerful things we can do,” Ketels said.

They asked that the residents in attendance talk to their neighbors and let them know how they can get involved, because the more voices that speak up, the more powerful the message.

They have the ear of at least one state official. Latisha Johnson, of state Representative Brian Banks’ office, introduced herself to the crowd during the meeting.

“We’d be happy to work on your behalf,” she said.

DTE says that it is putting in a lot of work to fix the problem. The utility says it recognizes that the system’s reliability in that area does need improvement.

“Residents may have seen our work trucks in your neighborhood over the past several months,” DTE media relations representative Alejandro Bodipo-Memba said in an email. “We are in the midst of completing several upgrades to the electrical grid in Grosse Pointe.

“Moving forward, we’re confident residents will see a reduction in the number of tree- and equipment-related outages,” he said. “We’re also planning to spend the rest of this spring and summer working to further improve the reliability of our service.”

DTE committed to a work plan in 2012 that it felt would address the issues in that area in 2013. Bodipo-Memba explained that there were some delays due to severe weather this winter, which pushed out the completion with plans to wrap up by the end of this month.

He said that isn’t an excuse and apologized for not delivering on the initial timeline.  

“We have focused a significant amount of work replacing damaged or worn equipment and trimming trees that could potentially cause damage to the overhead system,” he said. “Later this month, we hope to have completed all the repairs and tree trimming that we believe is required to significantly improve the performance of the system.”

Bodipo-Memba explained the components of the system in his email, but the letter from DTE on the Fix Circuit 1481 website also spells that out.

Most of the Woods outages were attributed to equipment failures and tree interference, he said.

Underground cables are the most susceptible to causing the biggest problems, and although the weather doesn’t impact them as much, they are more difficult to troubleshoot and repair when something does go wrong, he explained.

“Grosse Pointe Woods has suffered two such interruptions due to cable issues in the past year,” Bodipo-Memba said. “By the end of this month, we will be making some final reconfigurations of the underground cables, which we believe will substantially reduce the potential for wide-scale outages due to cable issues.

“The bottom line is we’re dedicated to bringing everyone in Grosse Pointe electric power you can trust,” Bodipo-Memba said. “We expect our team, and our company, to earn the respect of residents and businesses through performance and commitment. We look forward to the opportunity to do so.”

While DTE says it made some fixes and is working on the problem, Ketels said that it’s important for residents and businesses to band together.

“They say that they’re making fixes, but it’s not fixed,” he said. “We need to be the squeaky wheel until it’s fixed.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer April Lehmbeck at alehmbeck@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1043.