Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Aug. 27, 2001

Winsted residents hit Xcel Energy with complaints at council meeting

By Patrice Waldron

After a rather mundane start, the room came to life Tuesday when representatives from Xcel Energy spoke to the Winsted City Council about the frequent power outages experienced in the north end of town.

Two representatives from Xcel Energy were present to answer the questions of concerned residents.

James Rhodes, manager, community and local government relations, and Fletcher Johnson, a trimming supervisor for Xcel, were hit with a barrage of questions from the residents present.

Rhodes explained that Xcel believes most of the power outages occurring at the homes in Pheasant Run, Northgate, and on Shady Creek Drive are due to trees hitting the lines.

Some residents are sensitive to having their trees trimmed back from the lines. They asked if the power lines could be buried.

Burying the lines is discouraged, because tree roots can cause problems, and when the lines are buried, yard damage results from having to excavate the area to fix the problem, Rhodes explained.

Johnson manages the tree trimming contractors. It is Xcel Energy's policy, during a scheduled trim, to cut away enough of the tree to not have to come back for four to five years, he said.

Council member Bonnie Quast, lives in an area which has experienced the power outages. She said she knows the trees were cut five years ago, and they have flourished.

The council's position on the matter is that any time a tree is a continual problem, it is better to remove the tree than to have the tree cause problems for residents all over the city, explained Mayor Don Guggemos.

"Trees don't pay the bills. We pay our bills monthly. We have the right to have our electricity," Quast said.

Johnson assured those in attendance that the trimming crews would be in Winsted in a matter of weeks. Every tree in the easement will be trimmed to a proper level.

A letter and a brochure will be sent to homeowners notifying residents of the upcoming trim.

Xcel leaves complete removal of a tree as a last resort. If it is thought that a tree will not survive the trimming process, the homeowner will be notified.

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