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Grosse Pointe Farms Residents Question DTE Plan

DTE outlines plan to fix portion of city plagued by power outages and brown-outs but residents question whether work will actually be done. Some who live outside of the area question what will be done to fix the problems they've experienced this summer.

More than two dozen residents questioned DTE officials Monday during the city council's meeting after they presented a plan to fix what they've identified as a problem circuit.

The backbone of the problematic circuit, which serves residents from Charlevoix to Lake Shore Road from Kerby to Muir roads, is not strong enough to disperse power throughout the grid when the system is taxed, said Todd Henning, senior planning engineer.

The area's three –July 21, 29 and Aug. 1–were due to downed trees causing downed lines in the first two and the third was due to a lightening strike, he said. 

Crews have already been out to the area and trimmed the trees responsible for two of the three outages, which will alleviate those types of problems, Henning said. Then the plan is to install a steel-enforced conductor on the backbone of the circuit, which will allow it to be strong enough to disperse the proper amounts of power throughout, he said. 

Part of what this will do is prevent the low-voltage problems many residents in this area have experienced but several residents question whether the work will actually be done. Henning said the normal timeframe for such a project is six months but he will try to get the upper management to move forward with it more quickly. 

Several council members asked the three DTE representatives questions and made requests of them. Public Safety Director Dan Jensen said he wants to know what DTE is doing to restore the power to the streetlights–a problem he referred to as existing for several years. 

Nearly a dozen residents addressed DTE officials with questions or comments. Most shared similar complaints with a focus on what DTE will actually do and whether the plan will actually fix the problem. 

Among the questions/comments:

  • What affect does low voltage have on major appliances?
  • How can residents tell if they are experiencing low voltage that is harmful to major appliances if the lights appear to be working adequately?
  • What is DTE going to do for those who had to replace appliances, groceries or other items of value?
  • Will the plan really fix the problem, which has been going on for years and considering street-level DTE repair workers have described work they've done as placing a mere band-aid on a bigger problem?
  • Is there a way to avoid having brownouts and instead have rolling blackouts to avoid the toll brownouts take on appliances?

Most of the residents recognized that the employee presenting the information could not necessarily provide answers to all questions but requested it be passed along and that repairs be made as soon as possible. 

Several residents who live on Merriweather and Moran roads questioned what work would be done to fix their problem since they do not live within the problematic circuit area. 

Farms resident Ted McDermott said he's been without service eight times since mid-June–an outage frequency he said is of third-world service with first-world prices. 

One Moran Road resident described how her home backs up to large homes on Kenwood, some of which take three air conditioner compressors to cool the homes–a surge on the system street-level workers have told her tax the power grid. She explained street-level workers have said many of the larger homes add additional compressors or other significant drags on the system unknowingly to DTE, which does not allow the company to account for the additional demand.

Another resident said if he dealt with his clients through his work the way DTE treats its Grosse Pointe customers, he'd be out of a job.

DTE officials offered residents claims forms as well as to leave their name, address and phone number to report problems they feel have been regular but might not have been addressed Monday.

Mayor James Farquhar said the city is committed to following up with DTE to ensure the work is completed appropriately, mentioning he is even one of those that has been affected.

Farquhar also used Monday's presentation as an example, explaining the city had requested the meeting so residents could ask questions and officials could get an idea of what work is being performed.

DTE has been making appearances before the city councils of the Grosse Pointes during a summer plagued by outages. In , some residents went without power for eight days in early July; in the Farms, residents have had shorter but more frequent outages even on seemingly clear, neutral-weather days; and plagued historically by outages experienced one lengthy outage in June, but has been spared since despite incomplete upgrades from four years ago.   

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