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Outages rile up residents
One area of West Chicago reports twice-monthly blackouts
By Rupa Shenoy | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/21/2007 12:41 AM

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Dozens of parties in West Chicago's Cornerstone Lakes subdivision were reaching full tilt last New Year's Eve when, at 20 minutes to midnight, the lights went out.

"A lot of people told me it ruined their celebrations," 7th Ward Alderman Nicholas Dzierzanowski said.

For at least the past two years, blackouts have hit nearly 500 homes in Dzierzanowski's ward about twice a month.

Homeowners had enough when last month's torrential storms knocked out power for 15 hours, while the lights in nearby houses shone bright.

The residents started complaining, and now the city has gotten involved, organizing a public forum Tuesday where ComEd representatives will take questions from the community.

It's a necessary step, said resident Paulette Ollie, who must pay an estimated $12,000 to repair damage her basement sustained during the storms.

"It's been a real frustration," she said. "This is a serious situation."

Cornerstone residents say the outages in their subdivision happen at all hours of the day and night -- during both good and bad weather.

People return home to flashing clocks that must be reset. They stock candles and flashlights. Small talk among neighbors centers on who has power on a given day and who doesn't.

Dzierzanowski has the local ComEd representative's number programmed into his cell phone and has been using it frequently since May.

He said ComEd representatives told him that trees had fallen on lines.

"How many times can that happen?" Dzierzanowski said.

ComEd spokesman Lois Diaz said the company is developing a plan to deal with the problems but couldn't say when it would be finished. He said ComEd has been keeping local officials informed.

"It looks to be a set of complex issues, and it's something that we're monitoring very closely," Diaz said. "We recognize the inconvenience that an outage of any duration poses for our customers, and we appreciate their patience."

The plan will "enhance reliability" and "promote growth," he said.

Matt Fuesting, the 7th Ward's other alderman, said the company must act swiftly. Several residents have suggested buying gas generators for the subdivision, he said.

Eight-year Cornerstone resident Linda Scheuer worries about what would happen if her husband, Ronald, who has health problems, needed help during an outage.

"If there came a time where my husband or anybody else might need to be on any kind of machinery," Scheuer said, "that might be a real concern."