About 200 people packed the auditorium of North Tonawanda's Ohio Street Elementary School Thursday night, intent on giving the Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. a black eye for the frequency and duration of power outages and poor services in the city's Wurlitzer Park area. Four of the utility companies managers, led by Patrick Long, customer relations manager, steadfastedly defended their company, maintaining that the problem is the unusual density of trees in Wurlitzer Park.
However, many of the speakers pointed out that the entire city has trees and asked how come other neighborhoods don't have the same problem. The root problem according to Long and his colleagues, is that Wurlitzer residents are uncooperative and won't allow NiMo crews on to their properties to trim and thin out the density of trees that obstruct power lines.
Long, Jeff Eddy, manager of planning and engineering; Bill Boneberg, superintendent of field operations; and Wayne Hines, divisional superintendent of forestry, all tried to reassure the residents that NiMo is doing everything possible to resolve the problems, including a current tree-trimming program that should be completed in 10-weeks.
The managers also said they planned to increase the tree-trimming cycle from the current five years to every three years.
Reviewing the reasons for recent outages, they said that 17 were caused by falling tree limbs, four to faulty utility company equipment, five caused by traffic accidents (cars hitting poles), one caused by a storm, one caused by lightening, and two prearranged to service customers.
But the residents along with their elected representatives who attended the meeting, weren't buying it.
At the conclusion of the two-hour meeting, Mayor Ronald R. Dawson and Long summed up plans to correct the problems, including:
Continuing speeding up the tree-trimming cycle.
A consumer hot line to air complaints.
A company investigation of complaints of rude responses to telephone calls.
A review of the power load being carried by the feeder into the neighborhood.
Forming a community committee to review the situation.