CALCUTTA - St. Clair Township's Trustees expressed concern about the frequency of power outages and the negative effects on businesses from those outages during Tuesday's afternoon meeting.
Trustee Robert Swickard said, "There is no way to completely curtail the problems, but we're getting more than our fair share."
The discussion on electrical outages was prompted by a letter from Bob Graff, vice president of operations for Columbiana Foods, Inc. In the letter, Graff states, "As a business owner with locations in other markets not serviced by AEP [American Electric Power], I must tell you that we do not experience nearly the problems that we incur in Calcutta."
Trustee James Hall said, "I am in100 percent agreement. It happens too frequently here in the township."
The letter related specifically to a Labor Day outage that was caused by a faulty transmission line. Hall said previous outages have been caused by squirrels, and noted a recent East Liverpool outage was caused by a raccoon.
Carmen Prati-Miller, a spokesperson from AEP, said there have been a variety of causes of outages, and that some are due to customer-notified tree clearings. She said other outages have been caused by trees falling into power lines and equipment failures, and that one recent outage was caused by a customer attempting to install an antenna.
Prati-Miller said the planned outages to cut trees are a "temporary inconvenience for a long-term fix" and that it was part of AEP's service reliability plan.
Hall said he has previously met with representatives from AEP to inquire what could be done to prevent small animals from affecting the system and was told that there are remedies that could be used but haven't yet been applied. He said one remedy mentioned could involve a cage-like device, and that another would utilizes a fuse-like system so that the outage is limited.
"Unfortunately, when the power goes out, most all of Calcutta is out," he said.
Prati-Miller said it is the "norm rather than the exception" to install animal prevention devices on equipment and substations, although she couldn't swear that such an item was present in the station powering St. Clair Township.
Graff explained that power outages have a negative impact on his business: "Of course, in our business where we have highly perishable products the uncertainty of electrical service is a major concern. This past Labor Day outage could not have come at a worse time. It was a holiday weekend and the loss of business for the four hour period was quite a hit to our weekly sales forecasts."
Swickard said the outages can also be a safety issue, and noted that some people who depend upon oxygen tanks could be negatively affected.
Hall pointed out that during a recent outage that it was good fortune that an Ohio State Highway Patrol officer was on the scene to help direct traffic since the traffic lights were out.
Trustee James Sabatini suggested a meeting with AEP to discuss the power grid and the demands put upon it, and said representatives from East Liverpool should be invited to attend.
It was also suggested during the meeting that the St. Clair Township Chamber of Commerce be contacted and asked to help gather information from local businesses related to power issues.
Also during the meeting:
* The trustees heard from Sonia Reed, a Cornell Street resident, who inquired about the possibility of purchasing property from the township. Reed said she is interested in purchasing a lot near property she already owns on Cornell Street. Hall said the township would have to determine how much it has invested in the property to determine a sale price, and that if the sale price is low enough the property could be sold to her directly. Otherwise, the township must accept bids on the property. He said he hoped to determine a price for the property by the end of the week.
* Reed filed an official nuisance property complaint on a lot located at 16805 Cornell Road. Swickard said that since St. Clair Township doesn't have any zoning laws, the Ohio Revised Code must govern the process, and the township would mail a letter to the property owner. He said that most of the time a letter to the owner solves the problem.
* Clerk-Fiscal Officer Deborah Dawson said an HVAC system was installed in the Township Administration Building on Sept. 13. She said the previous one was more than 10 years old, and that it was worn out. She said the new system was upgrade from a phase-one system to a phase-three system, and that it would be more efficient.