ST. GEORGE – Several recent power outages in the Winchester Hills area are drawing concern from residents who argue the problem puts their community at risk.
The outages started July 7, with several more outages taking place over the course of almost a week and half – all of them but one lasting three to four hours.
For many, having the power out in temperatures reaching as high as 110 degrees can be uncomfortable, but for some it’s a safety issue, especially with cell towers going down within 15 minutes after the power is out.
“At that point, we (firefighters) can’t get any 911 notifications to our pagers because that comes through the cell towers,” Brian Allen, a resident and volunteer firefighter in Winchester Hills, said. “So we won’t know if there’s an emergency like a fire or an accident. The community is also largely elderly, so that also becomes a safety issue in my opinion because someone could fall and need our help and we won’t get that 911 page.”
Allen said he has been working with AT&T to see what – if anything – the company can do to resolve the issue, but at this time, it remains a problem.
Winchester Hills dealt with similar issues about six years ago, Allen said, but was eventually able to get the problem resolved after meeting with representatives from Rocky Mountain Power. At that point, the fix involved placing wind stabilizers on the above-ground power lines feeding into Winchester Hills.
Residents have questioned whether Rocky Mountain Power needs to upgrade the stabilizers or conduct maintenance on the power lines, stating that the power outages seem to occur during wind storms. However, Rocky Mountain Power maintains these outages have nothing to do with the previous issue.
“It’s not an issue of maintenance. The company has done an annual assessment on the power lines out there every year since we had that issue,” Dave Eskelsen, a company spokesman, said. “They have also done a number of projects at a significant cost to the company to make sure the customers in that area have reliable service.”
In several of the incidents, lightning strikes caused the power to go down, Eskelsen said.
In one of the two outages that occurred last weekend, there were technical issues related to the substation in Middleton that feeds power to the Winchester Hills residents.
“Workers spent much of the weekend working on that substation,” Eskelsen said.
However, they were unable to fully resolve the issues due to mechanical parts that need to be shipped in, he said. The second outage last weekend occurred when the company transferred the customers to a backup system early Monday morning, which took about three hours.
Eskelsen was unable to provide a date for when the customers will be switched back to the main substation.
“It will take some time to make the repairs because it involves getting the parts, but we think the backup system will serve all the customers dependably for now,” he said.
When the repairs are finished customers can expect to experience another outage for a short period of time, Eskelsen said, adding that the company intends to conduct outbound calling prior to that outage to let customers know beforehand.
Sources said Rep. Don Ipson, R-St. George, had been working with Rocky Mountain to fix the issues with the power outages. Several phone calls and texts to Ipson from St. George News to confirm were not returned, and several residents interviewed by St. George News said they were not aware of his involvement.
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