Residents with power surge damage to receive up to $500 from city

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – The city’s Department of Municipal Services has agreed to compensate customers affected by the Oct. 28 power surge with what officials are calling a one-time, non-precedent-setting, good faith effort: a payment of up to $500.

The funds are intended to help residents pay for insurance claim deductibles and appliance replacement.

Residents affected by the voltage surge and subsequent appliance and infrastructure damage live in a block bounded by Second and Third streets and Superior and Chestnut. About 23 affected homes have been identified.

On Oct. 28 a utility pole fell; residents contend it was rotted at the base. The fall caused the neutral tap at the transformer on an adjacent pole to break. Melanie McCoy, general manager and secretary of Wyandotte Municipal Services, said the breakage allowed irregular voltage due to lack of grounding.

Wyandotte has over 7,000 poles in town, she said, with 10 percent owned by AT&T, adding that the city has replaced 263 poles, an average of 66 per year over the last four years.

“The replacements are scheduled when routine inspections indicate replacement is needed,” McCoy said, citing circumstances such as system upgrades, storms or car accidents that damage the poles.

McCoy went on to explain that customer claims were submitted first to the city’s insurance claim administrator, ASU, even though her department anticipated that the claims would be denied due to government immunity statutes.

At the Nov. 9 City Council meeting, McCoy and Jerry Kupser, superintendent of transmission and distribution for Municipal Services, were charged with reviewing residents’ situations, and with reporting back to the council in a week.

A meeting was held Nov. 11 to answer resident questions and explain the reimbursement process to residents. McCoy followed up with the council concerns at the Nov. 16 meeting.

Councilman Leonard Sabuda asked how the Nov. 11 meeting for the residents was received, how many accepted or rejected the Municipal Services response, and whether there still was a problem.

McCoy called it “a good meeting,” saying about 20 people attended, and that officials addressed all residents’ questions.

“We didn’t reach everyone, because we had the meeting right away because we wanted to get the word out,” she said, “but I believe they were able to share it with the others. I did try to contact as many as I could the night before by phone.

“I think everybody now has a process and they’re going forward. I can’t say they’re happy, but I believe they’re happy with our way of addressing it.”

Councilman Todd Browning concurred.

“I felt much better that Municipal Services had their arms around the scope of the incident that took place,” he said.

Councilman Lawrence Stec resolved that the council concurs with the recommendation of Municipal Services to compensate the customers with a good faith one-time payment of up to $500, and further resolve that the Municipal Services management team be directed to continue to communicate and work with those affected by this incident.