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LCEC follows up on frequent outages, ‘momentaries’ with panel

By Staff | Sep 16, 2010

Key Account Representative Tricia Dorn of the Lee County Electric Cooperative attended Tuesday’s Captiva Community Panel meeting to follow up on complaints from Captivans about poor power service on the island.

At the July meeting of the panel, LCEC Chief Executive Officer Dennie Hamilton responded in person to a letter that the panel sent to the organization detailing the frustrations Captiva residents and business owners were experiencing with frequent blackouts and power fluctuations.

Two major outages in November of 2009 caused many Captivans to be without power for more than 24 hours.

One of those events, which occurred on Nov. 1, 2009, was caused by a sailboat knocking out a transmission line on the Matlacha Bridge. The same thing happened again on March 8, 2010.

For panel President Sandy Stilwell, owner of the Keylime Bistro, one of those outages left her restaurant without power for more than three hours on a Friday night, resulting in a loss of $4,000 in business. The Captiva Island Inn, also owned by Stilwell, is also frequently affected by outages.

“I’m not the only one that’s experiencing this. It’s costing me to the tune of well over $100,000 in a loss of income, especially when I have guests at the Inn. They want to leave when they don’t have power. It’s a problem,” Stilwell said.

Dorn was receptive to the panel’s concerns and said, in regards to Stilwell’s outages, she would send a person out to Captiva specifically to examine the Andy Rosse Lane system, especially the t-pole near the Keylime Bistro that is consistantly having power problems.

Panel member Gordon Hullar expressed several concerns.

At the July panel meeting, Hamilton presented a general overview of LCEC and responded to questions from the panel about raising the transmission line on the Matlacha Bridge to keep sailboats from knocking it out.

Hamilton said that raising the line would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and wouldn’t necessarily prevent boats from snagging it. Panel members also suggested burying the Matlacha Bridge line, but Hamilton said that putting the line underground could result in longer response times as it would be harder for LCEC crews to access the line and identify the problem.

“I know both options were discussed at the last meeting, and I can report back to you on that. We’ve taken everything you said at our last meeting back to corporate and our management team,” Dorn said.

Hullar mentioned he would also like LCEC to directly address the reliability issues on Captiva only.

“I would like to attend one of your future meetings, and talk specifically about the reliability on Captiva — from Blind Pass and forward,” Dorn said, noting that she would also like to further discuss the matter of the Matlacha Bridge line with the panel.

Dorn also described what LCEC refers to as “momentaries.”

“When you see those momentaries, that means that something is in the line and we’re trying to clear it,” Dorn said. “We have protective devices set up, so that if an animal or a tree limb hits the line, it will knock your power off and then on. That’s the system trying to keep the power on. If the tree is still in that line, it’s going to happen again. The third time it happens, you’re going to experience an outage. The third time means it’s not going to clear itself and we need to roll crews.”

As frustrating as momentaries can be for residents and businesses, Dorn continued, LCEC would prefer a couple momentaries to a complete outage and the need to deploy a crew to fix it.

In addition, Dorn said that an LCEC truck will be on duty on Sanibel and Captiva 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the end of the year, but that LCEC is considering keeping that 24-hour service even longer.

For more information about power service on the islands, visit www.LCEC.net.