On June 22, 2011, we began a journey with ComEd when over 3,000 Highland Park residents experienced power loss due to weather. Days later 800 residents were still without power. Just weeks later, it was déjà vu as power loss was becoming the norm and power outages due to storms or nothing at all continued incessantly throughout the summer. It was clear a permanent solution was needed.
As a city, we were on a mission to gain control of our power. We met with ComEd at City Council meetings, joined with neighboring communities to meet with ComEd and held a state hearing on power reliability in NE Illinois. We pushed ComEd to keep contractual promises of regular power reliability and vegetation maintenance as stated in its Franchise Agreement. After the state hearing, we continued our conversations with ComEd President and CEO Anne Pramaggiore and Vice President for External Affairs Michael Guerra. In response, they presented us with an action plan and implementation began immediately.
A new level of commitment from ComEd to provide on-going reliable power to us as promised in our Franchise Agreement began. From vegetation maintenance requests to infrastructure investment to improved communications, we have experienced progress.
One of the specific requests I made was to have regularly scheduled meetings to assess and address any serious issues that arise. Earlier this month, City Manager Dave Knapp and I joined ComEd engineers in the field to review electrical distribution equipment improvements installed in Highland Park over the past year.
The tour followed a 2011 Annual Report presentation by ComEd where outage data and capital improvement updates were communicated. The report confirmed what we knew:
- 2011 non-storm outage numbers were higher than in the past as were the storm-related numbers.
- The total number of Highland Park customer service interruptions in 2011 were 30,037 with 18,896 of these equipment or tree-related. Only 6,452 were specified as weather-related.
- Previous statements by ComEd that 43% of Highland Park residents experienced non-storm-related outages in 2011.
- Equipment was not working effectively and trees were not sufficiently trimmed.
Thanks to our perseverance the following has occurred:
- A focused vegetation management and capital improvement plan is in place and being implemented.
- Communication continues to improve. ComEd has significantly increased its call center staff and response times and has focused on creating a communication system that provides accurate information. Residents can now text outages by texting OUT to 26633 and will receive real-time outage status updates. ComEd also redesigned its website to provide up-to-date outage information.
Thank you for working together to bring improved power reliability to our city. A special thanks to those residents who became the voices of their neighborhoods. Their outreach earned them unofficial naming rights to their neighborhoods’ outage pockets and circuits, but more importantly ComEd improved equipment and hopefully their areas have experienced fewer outages over this past year.
We made a commitment to transparency, accessibility and coordinated efforts. You expect and deserve that from us and from our utility providers. Our work is not done, but we have made great strides in all of these areas when it comes to receiving the electrical power we expect.