DTE recently held community open houses to address residents’ concerns about power outages that have been occurring in Farmington and Farmington Hills.

DTE recently held community open houses to address residents’ concerns about power outages that have been occurring in Farmington and Farmington Hills.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

DTE gets feedback from residents at community open houses

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published October 1, 2021


FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — Farmington and Farmington Hills residents had an opportunity to voice some of their frustrations over power outages that have been occuring in the area when DTE held community open houses Sept. 28 and 29 at Heritage Park and Riley Park.

DTE employees were positioned at different stations to field questions and listen to the concerns of residents when the Farmington Press was on hand Sept. 28 at Heritage Park.

Ray Shinosky, of Farmington Hills, was one of the residents in attendance.

“The issue was I had 18 power outages this year in my house,” he said. “One week I lost it three times. … I suggested to them to send out the accounts receivable guy, because he never misses the bill. … I’ve been there 31 years in the sub, and every month just like clockwork (the bill comes). Send him out here.”

Shinosky said he has lost power even when there has been “beautiful weather,” and he has lost it for four or five hours at a time and “some days for two or three days.”

Farmington Hills resident Carter Grabarczyk has had similar issues.

“We’ve lived in that house for 43 years. The last two months we’ve had 18 power failures, which is more than we’ve had in 43 years. Some (are) two minutes long and some days long,” Grabarczyk said.

Ryan Stowe is DTE’s vice president of distribution operations. He shared the kind of feedback DTE has been getting from residents.

“They’re not happy with the number of outages and the problems we’ve had here this summer, and that’s why we’re out here today, (to) try to explain all the plans that we have to try to make things a lot better,” Stowe said.

When asked about what areas in Farmington and Farmington Hills have been having issues, Stowe said, “I think it’s pretty much all of it.”

He shared DTE’s plans to deal with what seems to be the root of the problem.

“You take a look at the outages in this area overall, (and) well over 80% (have) been caused by trees,” Stowe said. “So, the No. 1 thing we can do to try to help improve reliability is trim the trees. So, we’re gonna have a huge presence out here from now through the end of the year — trimming all the lines out here to try to get everything back to specification and eliminate those tree-related outages.”

According to Stowe, DTE has already begun that process.

Farmington Hills Council Member Matt Strickfaden also had an opportunity to speak with DTE Sept. 28.

He discussed feedback he received after posing a question.

“I (said), ‘If your plan to completely trim, do maintenance trimming every five years had been completed, isn’t it true that we wouldn’t be having the kind of problems we’re having?’ They did agree they’ve been remiss in doing their maintenance trimming,” Strickfaden said.

Stowe identified what could help prevent some power outages from occurring.

“In general, we wanna keep about a five-year cycle — come through and clear all those line miles to maintain our spacing — typically about 15-foot spacing (and) keep the trees away from the lines,” he said. “Any old or dead trees that might be able to fall into the wires, take those out as well.”

Stowe said that DTE has committed $70 million to trimming trees across its entire service territory.

He was unsure of an exact amount dedicated to Farmington and Farmington Hills.

Stowe expects the issues that have been occurring in the area to be taken care of by the end of the year and said, “We tend to trim circuit by circuit, so those improvements will come depending on where those customers live.”

Farmington Hills resident Bill Law estimated that he’s lost power 11 times in the last 40-45 days.

“I’ve lived in this subdivision since 1994, and we average maybe one or two times per year, maybe three,” he said. “But this time, 11 times. It’s just too much.”

Law is of the opinion that competition would help DTE improve its service.

“What can you as a citizen do? All you can do is file a complaint with the state of Michigan, and then the state supposedly will do something,” he said. “But what are you gonna do when they have no competition? That’s the bottom line.”

Law’s perspective is not necessarily an uncommon one.

“I think that the frustration comes from people believing that DTE’s a monopoly and not going to do anything about it because they don’t have to,” Strickfaden said. “My sense is that they really want to do something about it, but they’ve been remiss in coming up with strategic plans to take care of tree-trimming, which is the primary source of the problems, and some underground wire. But I honestly believe after talking to them that they really are going to do something that’s considerably different than what they’ve done in the past, and it’ll be a lot better.”

Strickfaden expressed a concern for a segment of the population that can be particularly affected by power outages.

“Our senior folks that don’t have generators, they just get stuck, and if nobody’s taking care of them or looking out for them, that’s a big problem,” he said.

According to DTE’s website, there is a $25 credit for customers who have a power outage that lasts more than 16 hours under non-catastrophic conditions.

For other ways to potentially get credit, visit newlook.dteenergy.com, and under the category of “Outage & Safety,” click “Damages & Reliability Credits.”

Problems can also be reported on the site.

To report a power outage or downed power line via phone, call (800) 477-4747.

Stowe shared a message for residents.

“This has been a really tough year for the residents of Farmington-Farmington Hills,” he said. “We’re here to be able to share our plans, listen to the issues, the problems that it’s caused for the residents and the customers here, and know they have our commitment that we’re going to make this better.”