FORT NELSON, B.C. – The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality has climbed BC Hydro’s corporate ladder trying to solve service level issues.
Mayor Gary Foster says over $150,000 in food was lost at local grocery stores during a power outage on August 9th, and some businesses had to send staff home early.
“The cost to the community is astronomical; the savings to BC Hydro [are] pennies. This is the case that we’re trying to make with BC Hydro,” said Foster.
Since June, the area has had multiple outages that have lasted several hours, impacting businesses and causing potential safety problems.
After a 10 hour outage in June, the NRRM had a meeting with BC Hydro staff, which Foster called ‘unsuccessful’. This led to the Northern Rockies setting up a meeting with BC Hydro’s Vice President of Operations, Charlotte Mitha.
Foster said the meeting was sure to have a positive outcome, it did, at first. Mitha had agreed to have a crew on standby in Fort St. John, decreasing the wait time to around five hours instead of the up to 10 hours the town has experienced.
“We explained to her that the idea of having crews move out of Fort Nelson is not the same as having a crew move from one of the smaller communities in the Interior,” said Foster.
Unfortunately, when a power outage took place in July, it took a crew eight hours to get to Fort Nelson and an hour to restore power, says Foster.
“I contacted Charlotte Mitha, and I said we have said that this was an issue, and once again, it hasn’t been addressed. She agreed that she would look into this problem.”
Only one crew member was available during the outage last week, which lasted up to 11 hours for some customers. Line crew members are unable to work alone due to safety concerns.
“The long and short of it is it’s unacceptable to have a community of 3000 people be out of electricity for up to five hours, simply because BC Hydro is trying to save a few dimes on labour.”
Foster says BC Hydro believes the community is not busy enough to have workers stationed there when they can work elsewhere. He told Mitha and BC Hydro President, Chris O’Riley, that they’re not saving money by having workers in Fort St. John while paying for their food, travel and accommodations.
“I think they need to sit there and pull up the pencil, sharpen it up, and figure out exactly how much money they’re saving. I think they are well well behind the eight ball.”
As for the next step, Foster says the Resource Municipalities Coalition, which comprises Fort St. John, Taylor, Mackenzie, Tumbler Ridge and the NRRM, is writing a letter to energy minister Bruce Ralston and the North Central Local Government Association.
“We’ll get enough attention to this issue that something will be done, and I’m actually surprised because it’s such a simple issue.”
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