GATES MILLS — Residents demanded answers about constant power outages from Dean Hayne, regional external affairs representative for FirstEnergy. With the heavily wooded areas and low population density in Gates Mills, residents said they are often at the end of the line to have their power restored.
Mr. Hayne has been in touch with Mayor Karen Schneider about power outages and spoke to Village Council in January. Several residents brought their concerns directly to Mr. Hayne at the council meeting on July 13, citing personal examples of their struggles.
“Something’s got to be done because we’re paying our bills,” Gates Mills Boulevard resident Dorothy Schillman said, who has lived in Gates Mills for 30 years. “We demand good service.”
She said that she lost her electricity several weeks ago for three days and she already paid a tree trimmer to remove branches that may take wires down. The power went out around 7 p.m. on a Wednesday and FirstEnergy advised her that the power would be on around 8:30 p.m. It was still out so she called again, and the representative on the phone said the power may be on around 10:30 p.m. Ms. Schillman called again when she was sitting in darkness with her flashlight and was advised that the power would be on Friday around 8:30 a.m.
“I’ve also had this innumerable times during the winter when I stay in my clothes and get underneath the covers in the bed and I can be there except to get up and make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because there’s nothing to make my food with,” she said. “I’m a little elderly, I’m not 90, but I can only tolerate being cold for so long.”
Ms. Schillman said that when she called FirstEnergy to report a power outage, the representatives told her that higher density areas, such as Mayfield Heights, have their power restored first. She recalled one incident since she has lived in Gates Mills when she was without power for eight days. She said that the wires are too low.
Mr. Hayne said that the lowest lines on utility poles are usually phone lines and electricity wires are at the top. He said it is FirstEnergy’s responsibility to keep things such as branches away from the wires, noting that tree maintenance is a “big issue.
“We don’t want to see anybody go without power,” Mr. Hayne said.
Chartley Road resident Cara Sulzer said that she has had an outage once a week for the last five to seven weeks. Each outage lasts 10-20 seconds. Mr. Hayne said that is more common than where he lives and he would pass her comments along to others at FirstEnergy. Although she has a generator, Ms. Sulzer said it does not power everything and many residents do not have a generator. She asked for more communication from the village. Mayor Schneider said that every resident received a brochure with information about FirstEnergy in the mail in February.
Some residents asked for a data comparison of outages in Gates Mills over several decades and a comparison to other communities. Mr. Hayne said such data does not exist and would take awhile to gather. Dorchester Road resident Rita Petti Borovica said she would rather have answers and “not be placated.”
Mr. Hayne said the weather this winter caused a lot of outages. In 2020, branches at six of seven circuits that serve Gates Mills were trimmed. They also did “vegetation control” in January and February, he said. There were several issues with equipment at Woodstock Road and Cedar Road that were addressed, according to Mr. Hayne.
“It is a work in [progress], and I think it will be continuing,” Mayor Schneider said.