Meeting with DTE leaves residents frustrated

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 19, 2012

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — DTE representatives came out to discuss the power outage issues that have been plaguing part of the city and let residents know that they are working on the problem, but residents are not buying it.

Some in the crowd of residents that packed a large room in the Community Center Sept. 12 called it lip service, saying they’ve heard the same promises in the past.

“This is not a new problem,” said resident Bob Squiers, who lives on Anita. “The problem has been going on for 30 years and we’ve been hearing the same song and dance.”

One woman said that when she moved to the neighborhood, her neighbor greeted her with, “Welcome to the power-outage neighborhood.”

During the meeting, residents were passionate, sometimes shouting out from the crowd when angered by comments made at the meeting.

They were especially fired up when a DTE representative referenced a storm in relation to a weekend outage in July.

“There was no storm,” one resident shouted. “What are you talking about?”

Another yelled, “No storm, no storm,” while someone else shouted, “Wrong.”

“Get your facts straight,” shouted another.

Their frustrations stem from what some referred to as decades of power issues that have primarily affected the area north of Vernier and east of Mack.

Besides completely losing power, some residents complained of low voltage issues.

Residents and business owners have complained of lost food, damaged appliances and more, due to the power issues. Many also have had to purchase generators. Some talked of fires.

Resident George McMullen Jr. thanked DTE because “there’s a local cable company that I really didn’t like, and they’re seeming like good service compared to you.”

Although the city doesn’t have the power to force DTE, a private company, to take any specific actions, city officials including Mayor Robert Novitke and City Administrator Al Fincham, who drove up to Lansing to chat with the Michigan Public Service Commission, have been working hard to get DTE to step up and fix the problem.

“Our mission is to get this taken care of,” Novitke said.

Like the residents, Council member Vicki Granger wasn’t happy at the end of that meeting.

“We left there more with frustration than anything else that the people DTE sent don’t have the authority to make things happen there,” Granger said.

While the meeting didn’t provide the answers or relief they were looking for, the city’s efforts are getting noticed, because the MPSC sent representatives to take note of the discussions at the meeting in Grosse Pointe Woods.

Also the MPSC had contacted DTE about the issue.

“We’re getting some attention,” Granger said.

DTE sent several representatives to the meeting.

DTE representatives said they were working on the problem and said they were planning to make an investment of more than $1 million between Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Farms, which is also experiencing problems. Grosse Pointe Woods will get an investment of $400,000, but DTE representatives said that the work in Farms will also benefit Woods residents. DTE has attended a meeting in the Farms as well.

DTE representative Joe Cazeno apologized to the residents about the power issues.

“I mean that wholeheartedly,” he said, adding that they have spent time evaluating the problem.

“I do hear you,” Cazeno said. “We’re going to get this fixed, plain and simple. We will get this fixed.”

DTE did some work in the area several months ago, but it hasn’t fixed the problem. Now they are planning to split a circuit into two circuits as part of its work on the issue.

“It’s going to help the circuit reliability,” said DTE senior planning engineer Todd Henning during a presentation.

This wasn’t the first time DTE has met with Grosse Pointe Woods in the last few months. They stopped by a meeting after a weekend-long outage in Grosse Pointe Woods in July. That outage was followed by another outage in the same problem section of the city in late August.

DTE has explained that the July outage was weather-related and the August outage was due to a branch that fell and broke wires during dead-tree removal by an outside company, according to information from the city.

The city has logged a history of the issue back to 2004, when it asked for DTE to come up with solutions to power issues. Throughout the years since then, they have a history of a number of power issues and discussions with DTE.