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DTE Promises in Woods Met with Disbelief

A hearing for Grosse Pointe Woods will be held in about 30 days by DTE to provide answers about what happened most recently and what action is being taken to correct the problem.

Two DTE officials who appeared before the city council Monday were met with heavy criticism by residents and business owners following .

During the outage, DTE continually made estimates about restoration time that were repeatedly extended--to the point that on the third day, .

That followed a great deal of unrest last year following an outage that led to an investigation revealing that . Those upgrades have since been completed.

Promises by DTE Monday night to determine the problem that the many residents in attendance said has been decades-long were met with disbelief and scoffing. The council members also expressed their frustration, and even anger, about the situation.

Many residents shared their stories and frustrations, even some residents who live outside of the grid that was out of power for nearly three days saying they experience brown-outs frequently.

Tom DeBoever, of Aline Drive, said he and his wife regret moving to the Woods at all considering the situation with unreliable power. or whether the problem would be fixed.

He brought his wife home from major surgery July 6 about four hours before the outage. He then spent the next two and a half days changing bandages and preparing ice packs often in complete darkness.

Another resident, Tom Sullivan, of Brys Drive, said he's lived in his house for 48 years and the outages have been a problem since he moved in. He told the council and DTE he feels there is no credibility on either side of the table considering the problem continues to exist after decades.

Then there is Dan Curis, the owner of on Mack Avenue. He lost $25,000 in food during the outage. His request to DTE: give accurate estimates of restoration or say up front there isn't an idea of when the power will be restored. Doing so, he said, would provide him with options of what to do with the food he has stored in his walk-in freezer and refridgerator, such as donate the food so at least it doesn't go to waste.

In the 18 years owning that restaurant, Curis said he's lost power for significant stretches of time 15 time, losing $10,000 to $20,000 worth of food each time. He has problems with insurance because one claim of that amount ends with the insurance company refusing to renew his contract, he said. The premiums are not covering the amount of loss.

Then any claim he submits to DTE is denied.

"The problem I have is that it is not my fault," Curis said. "I have no control over it. I happen to be in the grid."

While he's considered purchasing a generator for the restaurant, there is no where to put one that would allow full operations to continue. Additionally, it's expensive. His insurance, he said, would rather pay $2,000 or $3,000 to rent one that would keep the refridgerator and freezer operational.

During the outage earlier this month, Curis printed out the DTE restoration estimates showing they were extended in two hour increments repeatedly. He's considering taking more action, he said.

"If I treated my customers like that, I wouldn't have a business," Curis said of DTE's treatment to the Woods.

Not only does he lose the food but he's closed for business and with inaccurate estimates for restoration, he kept staff on believing the power would return in time for the restaurant to re-open that day.

Then there is the disposal of the bad food, the cleaning of the restaurant and the complete preparation of the new food, he said, noting when replacing all of the food it's like opening a new restaurant every time.

Ultimately, DTE asked for 30 days to continue investigating what happened and what can be done to fix the problem. In 30 days, DTE officials will meet with the community and have answers, according to the two representatives at Monday's meeting-- Regional Manager Joseph Cazeno Jr. and Senior Planning Engineer Todd Henning.

Councilman Kevin Ketels asked them whether DTE's financial decision makers would be attending the meeting, explaining he believes it's clear the infrastruture needs to be replaced or some other significant investment needs to happen to make the power reliable.

Cazeno said they would not, adding that he and Henning along with another engineer would be returning. He also said their presence at such a meeting wouldn't really make an impact because only DTE could know how much should be invested based on whatever is determined as necessary to fix or upgrade.

Councilwoman Vicki Granger raised her voice, which is not her typical behavior, telling Cazeno the problem simply isn't acceptable and that residents should not have to plan to buy a generator with the purchase of their house.

The buzz of generators can be easily heard anytime their is an outage in that neighborhood.

Although Mayor Robert Novitke said the city believes residents have legal standing to be able to file a claim with DTE for any losses, he said the city would not be representing the residents in such pursuits. City attorney Chip Berschback did review several options for residents, urging them to seek an attorney if anything of significance was lost as a result of the outage.

He also emphasized the state law that regulates public utilities, which does have a clause stating "reliable service" is an expectation--a standard to which the Public Service Commission can hold DTE accountable.

Pete Waldmeir, GP Woods July 18, 2012 at 08:38 PM
As usual, the Woods' council and administration have labored mightily and brought forth another mouse. DTE causes hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage - not to mention brutal inconvenience for three days for residents and businesses northeast of Vernier and Mack - and the council gives the utility yet another 30 days to work up their excuses! No apologies, of course, for the city's lack of due diligence in watch-dogging DTE in the first place. Oh ya, mayor pro-tem Granger actually "raised her voice" to the DTE reps? Well, whoopee! I guess Vicki's council activity isn't limited, after all, just to voting "Yes" on every new tax that Mayor Novitke puts in front of her. She can talk. And get a load of assistant City Attorney Charles Berschback, who lives in Grosse Pointe Park, telling Woods taxpayers who have a beef with DTE to "call an attorney." We've got four on the payroll now: Chippy and his brother Don, who lives in the Farms, Council member Todd McConaghy and Mayor Bob Novitke. Surrender! We're surrounded!
Frustrated DTE Customer July 20, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Time for a letter writing campaign. bucklerr@dteenergy.com ,   meadord@dteenergy.com, I believe these are top DTE guys. Time to express Our tremendous frustration directly!    
Chris K July 20, 2012 at 07:54 PM
I think those who did not attend the meeting would understand the issues a lot better if they had. This is one of the reasons the Grosse Pointe Woods city council meetings should be TELEVISED. While the mayor instructed the clerk to transcribe this portion of the meeting it would likely benefit more the administration in future actions more than residents. So if you are proposing a letter writing campaign to DTE how about a letter writing campaign to the city council asking them to televise all their meetings but certainly the upcoming return visit from DTE at multiple broadcast times. I think televising this would be a huge service to affected Woods residents and all residents of the Grosse Pointes. Everyone needs to see the DTE dog and pony show with their own eyes.
Pete Waldmeir, GP Woods July 21, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Very good point, Chris K. If interested folks would go to www.grossepointewoodstruth.com they'd see several You Tube videos of budget hearings etc. where the Woods mayor and council listened without comment to an hour of citizens complaining about their bloated budget - and then the council took less than a minute to vote to pass the 2012-2013 budget 7-0 without a single response or comment. We're working on video taping the next DTE hearing so that citizens can see just how arrogantly taxpayers are treated by theirelected and appointed public officials.

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