Monday, December 3, 2007

Toledo Edison Fails to Turn Electricity On for Family of Nine

updates below

I received a phone call on Friday morning, the day I posted about the fire that killed a mother and her three children who were using candles because Toledo Edison [FirstEnergy] cut their power off. The call was from a Catholic sister who runs a 'community' center in the inner city of Toledo, the Padua Center. She told me of a family nearby whose children come to the center [a former church rectory]. They told her that they have no electricity and no heat in their house and are using candles for light.

My wife and I found out that she was denied any help from Lucas County Children Services, even though she pleaded her case to them. We called some people to get the ball rolling and brought some food and flashlights to them on Saturday. They have one kerosene heater for all 9 people living there. Seven children, their mother and grandmother have been without electricity and their furnace for two weeks. The mother borrowed the money and paid the bill on Friday but Toledo Edison cannot get there until Tuesday, a spokesman for the company told the mother.

A phone call from ABLE/LAWCO could not move Toledo Edison to restore their power in this 30 degree weather. Today's wind-chill is 20 degrees. The family has a small kerosene heater kept in the dining room, sheets attached to the walls to keep that room warm.

What a disgrace this is for FirstEnergy and Toledo Edison.

Where is humanity in the corporate world? Absent, for sure.

update 11:15 AM Tuesday

My wife just talked with the mother and she reports that they are still without electricity. When asked how she was, the mother said. "Cold, very cold!" My wife said that her voice was raspy. I wonder how it was for the children getting off to school this morning, having spent yet another night in a cold, dark house?

update 12:20 PM Tuesday

The story becomes more and more incredible as the hours go by. Both my wife and I were on the phone to Toledo Edison, playing the run-around game. It is not easy to speak to a live person but my wife finally connected with a gentleman who told her that the power was 'on.' She immediately called the mother who said, "No it isn't." Another call back to Toledo Edison, through all of the prompts, to a man named Julius. He said it is 'on' and the mother needs to check for a clear or gray tag on her meter and also to check her circuit breakers. A call to the mother: she checked and found no tag on the meter. My wife handed the phone to me- "Your turn!"

I called the 800 number, through the prompts, got a person and asked for 'Julius.' Music played, I waited and 'Tom' answered. "I was waiting for a representative named Julius, is he there?" "No, he stepped out." "Well, perhaps you could help," I began, "my wife and I have..." "Oh, what was that address?" He checked, "It looks like Julius put in a 'connect' order." "When?" I asked. "About 5 minutes ago," he replied.

I said to Tom, "Listen, Toledo Edison and FirstEnergy Corp already has one burned home and four children on the record and you are playing games with another one and nine people." Not waiting for a reply from him, I told him that I was going to call The Blade and report this to them.

Shortly after that I rang up Laren Weber at The Blade, she is the one who wrote the story of the fire on Lyman Street. I gave her the story and she assured me that she was going to make some phone calls.

What is so incredible about this entire story are the many hurdles that a person like this mother has to jump in trying to resolve the issue. How could she hope to solve this problem herself? It has taken a law department, two fairly-well connected adults and a Blade reporter to move this process, hopefully, forward.

I am going to the home now and will report back later this afternoon.

update 3 PM Tuesday

I met the oldest boy of the family at the Padua Center, a block from his home. He was roaming the halls and his mother had to grab him by the hand to lead him back to the room where is younger siblings, mother, and grandmother were. Apparently he is mentally unstable and although 14-years-old, he would not talk. I, too, grabbed his hand to lead him back and it was as cold as a dead-man's hand. The nun was heating some pizza for them while they warmed up. His mother tried to keep him seated, but the boy yanked free, got up, and walked around as in a daze. Only the pizza led him back to his seat.

After the pizza and the warm-up we walked back to the still-cold house. At 2:30 the Toledo Edison truck pulled up, pulled the meter, threw a switch, and drove off. Power returned to the house after two weeks. What an ordeal. I wonder if the Blade reporter had any influence or if she was just next in line. Only the managers at Edison know that answer. At least tonight, everyone will be warm in their beds at last.

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