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ComEd acknowledges service, communication problems

Thursday night's town hall meeting pitted ComEd representatives against residents concerned about unreliable service.

After a presentation of the Reliability Report and numerous comments from a number of concerned residents, ComEd representatives agreed that their distribution system and customer communication does need work.

“We recognize that we have reliability issues,” Director for ComEd’s southern region Kendall Hodge said. “We are proactively trying to address the concerns that were identified by the residents.”

ComEd met with village officials and residents Thursday night to address questions surrounding the company’s reliability in the wake of a devastating storm season.

After a series of “unprecedented storms” swept through the village on June 21 and July 11, comments from residents prompted the village to produce a detailed report that outlined specific problem areas in ComEd’s service.

The report found that equipment problems accounted for 42 percent of the 1,482 power outages that occurred in the village between 2007 and 2010. Another 34 percent of the problems were the result of weather related issues.

“We’re not really here tonight to talk about the outages from the storms,” Village of Downers Grove Mayor Martin Tully said. “But what we started to hear during that time was not so much about the storm outages but years of issues and concerns.”

Jim Toler was one resident who expressed a history of frustration with the energy delivery company.

“You all have a real credibility problem with me,” said Toler, a long-time resident of Downers Grove. “I’m sorry I’m not more positive, but I’ve been beaten into submission after 14 years of horrible service and horrible reliability.”

A number of residents applauded Toler’s comments, suggesting a similar dissatisfaction.

Michael Quirk, who has lived in Downers Grove for nine years, has been mostly satisfied with his service. However, after moving from the north side of Franklin street to the south side, he began to notice service problems.

“During the eight years I lived [on the north side], never once did we lose power,” Quirk said. “However, on the south side of the same block we’ve lost power many times.”

Other residents expressed similar specific issues related to service disruptions, including, among other things, over-grown vines and poor customer communication.

ComEd Vice President of external affairs Michael Guerra, along with other ComEd representatives, wrote down customers specific complaints and addresses, assuring them that their problems would be resolved.

“There are things we learn in all these meetings,” Guerra said. “Some of these things just fly under the radar.”

Concerns over communication were mostly spurred by unreliable time estimates given to customers during this summer’s storm outages. ComEd representatives blamed these inaccurate estimates on auto-generated restore times that were incorrect.

Automated meters were offered as one potential long-term solution to these communication problems, but more accurate restore times generated by line crews during outages is the most practical short-term fix.

ComEd representatives also outlined a number of general improvements they will be making to 10 circuits that were found to experience the most frequent number of outages in the village’s Reliability Report. These improvements include enhanced tree trimming in heavily wooded areas, the installation of a specially designed cable for heavily wooded areas and the installation of underground cable in areas where old cable is deteriorating.

The timetable for these improvements place all tree trimming to be completed before the beginning of spring and equipment replacements completed before next summer.

Doug Grier September 16, 2011 at 03:10 PM
Underground cables now there's an idea! Sooner rather than later.
DG Guy September 16, 2011 at 07:39 PM
Every time they come out to repair storm damage they should bury the cable while they're there. I've never lived in a city where they lost power as ofter as DG. People who have lived in Dg their whole lives don't appreciate that losing power 2 times a year for a day is not normal at all.
Kent Frederick September 18, 2011 at 12:21 AM
Underground cable is not the solution that everyone thinks it is. I live in an area where all of the cable is buried. Yet, we lost power twice in August on sunny clear days and once in June, the day before the tornado came through.
Neal Paskvan September 18, 2011 at 03:29 AM
I also live in an area where all the cable is buried. I'm not sure how the "grid" works however my guess is that before the power reaches our underground cable.. It's delivered from lines above along the way...
Kent Frederick September 19, 2011 at 03:21 PM
With the last power outage, a Com Ed lineman told me that two section of underground cable had problems, and that they needed to locate the bad sections, dig, and make repairs. That's why I had no power for almost 12 hours that was sunny with light winds
Doug Grier September 19, 2011 at 08:29 PM
Nothing is perfect and it's impossible to base action on one persons anecdotal experience or what a lineman may or may not have said. Of course, buried lines will require maintenance from time to time. It helps to not bury them all under concrete of course. Overall, however, buried lines would help as would improvement of overhead lines. The electric infrastructure in DG is abysmal - one of the worst I've seen. There are literally lines strung everywhere (too many) - drooping; strung across roads/highways; poles of all different heights leaning precariously; lines going through your back yard; poles buried in parking lots. Seriously - this is a big cause of the problem. Not only that, but it makes DG look dumpy.

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