Aug. 14, 2006

Power outages cause frustration in LP

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

Lester Prairie experienced two power outages in less than a week, leading the city council and local business owners to ask what could be done about it.

The outages July 12 and 17 affected a portion of the downtown area.

During Monday’s council meeting, Council Member Roland Bruckschen said he had heard several complaints about the outages.

Council Member Art Mallak said that the outages resulted in $130 in damage at his business. A fax machine and some fluorescent bulbs were damaged.

Another business owner affected was Kari Artmann of Big Don’s Carthedral.

Artmann said Big Don’s has lost revenue and had to destroy some perishable products as a result of the outages.

She said the business lost ice cream, milk, and other products as a result of the most recent outages, but did not have an estimate of the total value because no insurance claim was filed.

“We have lost a lot of revenue in the last year because of this. When the power goes out, we can’t sell gas, and the shop can’t do anything, but we still have to pay our employees,” Artmann said.

Frustrated with the frequency of the outages, Artmann contacted both Xcel and Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch about the situation.

Mayor Eric Angvall also contacted Xcel, and received a written response from Xcel representative Patrick Cline, who forwarded a memo from Xcel’s Minnetonka area engineer, Kim Marinac.

Marinac stated that Xcel recently completed two large-scale system upgrades in Lester Prairie, including the primary overhead line along Highway 1, and some secondary lines.

The outages, according to Marinac, were the result of fuses melting due to load demand.

The fuses, near the intersection of 1st Avenue North and County State Aid Highway 1, were upgraded in response to the outages.

Marinac stated that other fuses in the city will be upgraded within the next couple of months.

Artmann received a reliability investigation form from Xcel that shows that there were 10 power outages in Lester Prairie in 2005, the longest lasting nearly seven hours.

There have been four outages in the city so far in 2006, with the longest lasting nine hours.

The outages were caused by a number of different factors, including lightning strikes and system overload.

Artmann received a response from Hatch dated July 24.

In the letter, Hatch stated that an agreement between Xcel, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, and the attorney general’s office, provides guidelines for outage reimbursement and system upgrade standards.

The agreement also outlines tracking methods, and was intended to force Xcel to upgrade its network promptly in the areas most affected by outages, according to Hatch.

Included with the letter were copies of the requirements, including details of the customer service refunds that were referenced by Angvall.

The refunds are based on outages unrelated to storm days or public damage.

The guidelines specify a $50 annual credit to individual customers who experience at least six service interruptions, and a $50 credit to individual customers per interruption lasting 24 hours or more.

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