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Mayor Rosenthal, Other Officials Demand Honesty From ComEd

Sen. Garrett holds meeting to develop community cooperation to weather storm problems.

With representatives from Commonwealth Edison in attendance, Thursday's gathering of more than 40 mayors and managers from a dozen north suburban communities including Deerfield soon turned to the utility company's inability to be honest in its communications during the recent storms that knocked power out for much of the Chicagoland area.

 convened the meeting in Lake Forest to find ways for all branches of government to work together when crippling storms hit. The last one on July 11 left more than 800,000 ComEd customers without power.

Across the board, village and city officials expressed frustration at ComEd giving out inaccurate answers rather than admit it does not have one. 

“If you don’t know, don’t promise,” Lake Bluff Village President  told Commonwealth Edison Vice President for External Affairs . “When you don’t know what to expect, that is a problem.” 

ComEd Struggles To Answer

Guerra explained the difficulty of assessing storm damage in response to Letchinger’s comment, but gave no explanation for information provided by the company’s customer service department that proved inaccurate. 

“We had to take two, three, four days to review the damage,” Guerra said in response to Letchinger. “If you have a storm with 800,000 people out (of power) it takes time to deal with it all.” 

Highland Park City Manager Dave Limardi was not satisfied with Guerra’s answer to Letchinger. He lodged the same complaint. 

“If you don’t know it, don’t say it,” Limardi said. “My residents are tearing the faces off my staff because we don’t get information from ComEd. If we ran our cities this way it wouldn’t be pretty.” 

Guerra said the recent storms were a significant challenge. He said the lack of accurate information was something his company was reviewing because of the inordinate amount of problems. 

“This is something we are discussing a lot at ComEd,” Guerra said. “This (the recent storms) was just a tsunami. I had 1,400 priority items.”

Past History Doesn't Help ComEd

Glenview Village Manager Todd Hileman was not convinced. He has a history of difficulty with ComEd trying to help shepherd his community through storms in the past as well as the recent weather. 

“I sat in a room like this four years ago. ComEd made promises. Nothing has changed,” Hileman said. “We’re not asking for perfection. We’re asking for honesty. I’m sure we’ll be at another meeting like this in 2015. Let’s not wait until the next crisis.” 

Guerra had no response to Hileman other than to describe the severity of the storm that spurred the past meeting.

In direct questioning by Patch, Guerra was not surprised to hear complaints of its customer service representatives giving out potentially false information rather than be instructed to profess a lack of knowledge.  

“It’s something I’ve been hearing quite a bit,” Guerra said. “It’s something we are going to discuss. We will talk about working it into our planning.”

When Patch asked the question a second and third time, Guerra simplified his answer. 

“I don’t know,” he said.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering had an explanation for ComEd’s failure to admit it has no answer. “It’s their corporate culture,” she said.

Rep. May Promises To Go To Illinois Commerce Commission

Northbrook Village President Sandra Frum sees the electrical infrastructure as part of the problem. She wants a plan for ongoing improvements. 

“My residents will pay more to have the system improved,” Frum said. “We don’t see money for ongoing improvements.” 

who also attended the meeting, was quick to say she would go to the Illinois Commerce Commission with the idea. May, who was without power at her own home for several days because of storm damage, is also growing impatient. 

“Individuals need to come together,” May said. “We need better performance (from Commonwealth Edison) now before the next crisis.”

As the meeting came to a close, Garrett organized a committee of city and village managers to make specific recommendations. Hileman will head that effort.

“We have to hold their (ComEd's) feet to the fire,” she said.

RonnieTheLimoDriver July 29, 2011 at 10:06 PM
One point -- I, for one, will not pay more, for reliable service. ComEd just forced another rate hike down our throat that went into effect June 1st. Exelon (parent of comed) Profits Jumped 39% from a Year ago (http://www.foxbusiness.com/industries/2011/07/27/exelon-2q-profit-jumps-3-on-higher-revenue-lifts-2011-view/) and they raised their target for the year. Its time ComEd delivered on their promises. They have plenty of money; they are just unwilling to spend it because they have no financial motivation to do so. Karen May has been awesome on this issue and I hope she really does hold their feet to the fire. According to JD Power, ComEd is one of the lowest rated utilities in the country. See http://www.suntimes.com/business/6491238-420/customer-rating-dings-comed-report.html
Adrienne Schwarzbach Johnson July 29, 2011 at 10:55 PM
Several years ago, under a different Mayor, Deerfield seemed to take a little more aggressive approach and sued Com Ed. Does anyone remember what happened? And why our current Mayor and council have been so silent? We have had outages 4 times in the past two weeks, and two of the outages were bad enough to have to file insurance claims. I'm glad both Karen May and Susan Garrett have tried to hold Com Ed's feet to the fire. It would make me feel a heck of a lot safer if our Village had a little better emergency response. When I think of what COULD have happened, it scares me.
Mara Meyer July 30, 2011 at 04:19 PM
I was part of the initial meeting with ComEd when Lauren Beth Gash was our Rep - ComEd does not change it tactics. the triage methodology does not work. They need to immediately set aside funds to upgrade the infrastructure. In 2001 we lost power 17 times and continued until someone got the idea that the entire system along Wilmot road needed upgrading. With the recent storms, luckily I was able to assist two neighbors for two days as my house had power. Unfortunately many of my other neighbors had to endure three to four days without power. May I ask rhetorical question? What do our Village Trustees do? Is it not their place to make sure the Village employees watch what is needed in the village. When Mayor Forrest told me in a phone conversation in 2001 that the fix for my power outage would be to install a stand-by generator, I would have thought we have come further than - ComEd must be truthful! Give me and everyone else a break! Common Deerfield, have some vision, have some guts - take a stand! UGH!
Topo Gigio July 30, 2011 at 10:17 PM
This afternoon, a water line busted in our neighborhood; I guess that's better than yet another power loss. If I see Mr. Haney going door-to-door hawking pots and pans, I'll know I'm really living in Hooterville.
RB July 30, 2011 at 10:54 PM
I've lived in many parts of the country and the past 25 years I've been in Deerfield have been horrible from a power reliability perspective. Much worse than other places. Sadly, the best solutions is a backup generator. I gave up counting on Com Ed to supply reliable power years ago. I agree that asking for them to be truthful is simply a band-aid for a much more serious problem....and it does not get your power on any sooner.
Marshall July 31, 2011 at 08:43 PM
If May and Garrett are looking out for us with regard to Com Ed, how did Com Ed get a huge rate increase approved? I know it's tough to diagree with your fellow Senator when his Dad is the lobbyist for Com Ed, but that is when you have to step up and say NO! Marshall Hechter

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