Maitland calls out Duke Energy
Maitland city staff is in the dark 13 days after Hurricane Matthew. They don’t know why communication between the city and its contracted electric company faltered during the storm, and why it reportedly ignored a potential safety hazard.
Maitland Fire Chief Kim Neisler told the Maitland City Council at its meeting on Monday that she wasn’t impressed with the response the city received during the storm from Duke Energy.
“We’re not thrilled with our response from Duke,” she said. “…We’re not happy with the process.”
Neisler said there was a breakdown in communication between the city and the power company as Matthew skirted the Atlantic coast bringing wind and rain to Central Florida.
“They refused to give us real information,” she said, which hindered the city’s police and fire departments ability to respond appropriately.
“…There’s a breakdown (in communication) somewhere, and we’re going to find where it is.”
Suzanne Grant, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, said the company is looking forward to setting up a meeting with Maitland staff, and the staff of other local cities impacted by Matthew, to learn how Duke can do better in the future. A meeting between the two entities is being scheduled.
It’s been more than a decade since Central Florida faced a hurricane, and Grant said many manners of communication have changed since then. This time, Grant said, residents could use social media and live-updated outage maps online to track outages.
“There are a lot more opportunities to connect with customers,” she said.
But Neisler said the company’s communication with the city wasn’t up to the level of service provided by Progress Energy after Hurricane Charlie in 2004.
When the city told Duke about a power line down resting on a lift station, which Neisler said is considered a safety concern, the fire chief said nothing was done. And, she said, when the city called to follow up on the line the next day, the power company reportedly said they had no record of the report.
“There seems to be a lack of commitment to communication certainly, and the community,” said Councilman John Lowndes.
But aside from communication struggles, Maitland City Council members said they were all pleased with how quickly Duke restored power throughout the city. Grant said during the storm, Duke Energy restored roughly 86,700 outages in Orange County. She couldn’t say how many of those were in Maitland.
Mayor Dale McDonald said he was out of power for two days because of the storm, but had anticipated being without electricity much longer.
“We all want to be valued in those situations as best we can, but, it was better than I could have ever expected,” he said. “We were very blessed and very fortunate that this wasn’t worse because it certainly could have been.”