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.