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updated: 8/30/2011 12:36 PM

Hoffman Estates board gives ComEd deadline to respond about outages

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Trustees on the Hoffman Estates village board gave ComEd a 30-day deadline Monday to prepare answers for angry residents who say they are receiving bad service from the electric company.

Around 50 unsatisfied ComEd customers attended the nearly three hour meeting held by the village to express their frustrations to Arthur Barsema, ComEd's regional director of external affairs, and Ken Cicirale, manager of engineering and design.

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While the meeting was intended to be focused on the power outages that plagued the village in June and July due to heavy storms, the majority of ComEd customers present had complaints about frequent outages at their homes, despite the weather.

Many residents from the Westbury subdivision, particularly those living on Dresden Drive and Haman Avenue, said they have had problems with power outages at their homes for years and that ComEd has never fixed the problems.

"This problem is just on our side of the street," said Jeff Geisler, a 10-year Dresden Drive resident. "This happens all the time. We're without power, everyone else around us has power."

Concerns from other residents ranged from the cost of buying a generator and the price of spoiled food to the safety of neighbors with medical needs.

"This is not just an inconvenience," Geisler said to Barsema and Ciciale. "This is effecting people's lives and what you're doing is not enough, not for the money you make off of us,"

Paula Riccardo, a resident of Dresden Court since 1997, said she was without power for a total of 140 hours due to the storms on June 21 and July 11. She, along with some other residents, also put blame on the village board for handling the power outages poorly.

"It's unacceptable that no one from the village came around to check on anyone on our blocks during those storms," Riccardo said. "We have people that need assistance in emergencies on our block and it would have been nice to see a friendly face during the turmoil."

During the meeting Barsema and Cicirale presented ComEd statistics from recent power outages and gave broad plans for better service in the area on PowerPoints.

About 419,000 customers were affected in the June 21 storm, with more than double at 907,000 affected during the July 11 storm.

Barsema noted that this summer was the most historic for customer interruptions with about 2.4 million customers affected through to Aug. 3 compared to the previous record, which was 1.4 million affected between June and August in 2007.

He said ComEd is working to communicate more effectively with customers, through mediums like texting and Twitter, and that the company is also doubling the number of phone lines in the call center. There was also mention of how a more modern distribution system - or "smart grid" - would help with power outages.

At one point Cicirale showed off a Hendrix cable, which would reduce outages due to small trees or branches falling on wires, and received little enthusiasm from the residents and village board. He said that he needed to hear from residents "pocket areas" that were prone to having power outages,

"I don't think it's any secret to ComEd, or to the village, which areas have problems over and over again," said Mayor William McLeod.

Geisler further explained that the anger from residents was stemming primarily from the fact that the other half of Dresden Drive was able to switch what grid they were on and that the remaining residents are stuck on a grid that has problems coming from unincorporated Iverness.

"We want off this grid, period," Geisler said to applause.

Barsema and Cicirale agreed to give the village an update every 30 days for the next three months and to contact all residents who wrote down their addresses and phone numbers at the meeting.

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