May 17, 2018 PLYMOUTH VOICE.
Plymouth Michigan News
It’s a beautiful Thursday afternoon in downtown Plymouth with temperatures in the 80-degree range, bright sun, low humidity and once again no power for hundreds of businesses and homes. As DTE service technicians scramble to try to figure out what went wrong, complaints from disgruntled customers pour in to their call center.
Several traffic lights are out in the key downtown area and there’s plenty of parking along Forest, Penniman, Main Street and Ann Arbor Trail. No rain, no wind, no known downed wires or tree branches. Shoppers have deserted the streets and residents are standing on their porches asking what happened this time.
Power outages are not unusual in Plymouth, but in fact commonplace since August 2017 when a fire and explosion took out the Farmer Street substation.
DTE has held lots of meetings with City and Township officials, hosted an open house and displayed maps of their tree-trimming plans while their customers continue to suffer with outages, time after time as they keep singing the same old song.
The same old song
DTE keeps singing the same old song with different lyrics, and the people of Plymouth are weary of the tune.
Millions spent on television advertising provide constant advice on paying bills, comparing monthly energy usage, reporting and tracking an outage and monotonous commercials blasting out the “know your own power” refrain. Mailers arrive every month comparing usage to last year, as if last year was a special benchmark.
“With 47,000 miles of power lines, 1 million utility poles and nearly 4,000 circuits, DTE makes significant investments every year across our 7,600 mile electrical system,” the announcer croons.
But the reality is that DTE has deliberately failed to proactively address the big issue, residential infrastructure. In Plymouth it wasn’t until a major fire last year took out the outdated and dangerous Farmer Street substation that DTE was finally compelled to address system upgrades at the old site built in the 1930s.
While highly-paid executives promised to “consider” a rebuild of the antiquated substation after an explosion and transformer fire of unknown origin last August, nothing has really happened. That “incident” left 4,000 people and the entire downtown without power for three days, crippling businesses and causing uncalculated financial losses not to mention the inconvenience, stress and actual health threat to seniors and the multitude of people who need operating medical equipment to function.
Energy company representatives told officials of plans to “…improve service with system upgrades,” and set a goal for work to be completed by September. To appease customers, DTE mapped out “hot spots” and said the need for infrastructure improvements was obvious. They announced increased tree trimming along the power lines and the installation of “new equipment.” Work was said to be “on schedule” by a DTE spokesperson.
But, on Sept. 13, 2017, one of several temporary generators parked on Farmer Street was blamed for another outage that cut power throughout Plymouth for several hours. Plymouth residents had, by then, also suffered through an outage in March and five outages in the first 11 days of July.
While there was no actual solution, there were lots of meetings with city and township officials. Representatives scheduled an open house for disgruntled residents and sent out surveys about the problem. Local elected officials have attempted to exert whatever pressure possible on DTE but their efforts have been futile.
Now after a major ice storm and high winds last weekend caused major power failures in southeast Michigan, Plymouth area residents continue to suffer, waiting for DTE to catch up with their older and dying equipment while they sing the same old song.
Know your own power? People in Plymouth know they apparently have none when it comes to the empty promises and rhetoric of DTE, a company obviously far more concerned with image and profit than with actual service.
If electricity could be powered with promises, this problem would be solved. As it is, Plymouth residents seem to be at the mercy of a profit-driven corporation with no regard for safety, public service or morality.
The above editorial was previously published on April 19, 2018.
Photo: Don Howard / Associated Newspapers