Letcher County citizens affected by last week’s widespread power outage are being given a chance to tell a grand jury about their hardships while living without electricity.
Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison G. Banks II has prepared a form for citizens to fill out after Jan. 7 when the grand jury is expected to decide whether to investigate citizen complaints being leveled against Kentucky Power Company in the wake of a snowstorm which left more than 7,000 households here without power.
“Should the grand jury vote to conduct such an investigation as I believe they will, I have prepared a brief form to identify the nature of the complaints, the location of power pole or power line failures, the duration of the power outage and any known cause of the power outage,” said Banks. “The form will also allow the individual to list any economic loss or other undue hardship suffered as a result of the power outage.”
Banks said forms will be available for the public to pick up at his office in Whitesburg as well as other possible locations including public libraries, senior citizens centers, the sheriff ’s department, the county judge/executive’s office, all city halls and all city police and fire departments, and all volunteer fire departments.
“I intend for the forms to be completed and returned by the citizens by January 31 at which time I will group the complaints into geographic area, nature of outage, duration of outage, nature of hardships, and if known or a reasonably based conclusion, the cause of the power outage,” said Banks. “The forms will be forwarded to Kentucky Power Company with a reasonable time of approximately 14 days being given to Kentucky Power Company to provide any response to the complaints for consideration by the grand jury if the company so desires.”
Banks said he will invite the president and regional manager of Kentucky Power to a town hall meeting in which citizens can respectably voice their complaints to the company.
“I have spoken with both the president and regional manager of Kentucky Power and have been told they want to address these concerns and that one or both would be willing to attend such a town hall meeting,” said Banks.
Banks said other officials will be encouraged to attend the meeting, especially first responders and county and state officials who dealt with the problems caused by the winter storm and power outage.
Banks said he has received several citizen complaints in regard to the widespread power outages in Letcher County, including a complaint received on December 28 from a 62-year-old woman residing in Haymond.
“(She) is in extremely poor health, and is required to be on a breathing machine,” said Banks. “This lady has been without power for 10 solid days. The power company advised they could not reconnect her downed power line because when the main line broke, it also broke her outside pole required for electrical service for a mobile home.”
Banks said he and his staff made several phone calls trying to help the Haymond woman.
“With the assistance of the Letcher County Sheriff’s Department, LKLP, the Neon Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad, and a very courteous and helpful local insurance agent, I believe she will have her electrical service restored very soon,” said Banks. “Her medical needs are being met with the delivery of oxygen tanks by the Neon Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad. She has been provided with a temporary source of heat and some financial assistance to replace all of her spoiled frozen and refrigerated food.”
Banks said the local insurance agent filed a claim for the woman to expedite any policy benefits offered by her homeowner’s policy.
“It is because of people just like this lady and because of the hardships so many of our citizens have reported to me that I intend to request a formal invest igation by the Letcher County Grand Jury on January 7,” said Banks. “No testimony is expected to be taken on January 7 but I, as the Commonwealth’s Attorney, must inform the grand jury of my request and if as expected the grand jury agrees that an investigation should be made, I will begin issuing subpoenas to various individuals to appear before the grand jury and to collect documentation for consideration by the grand jury.”
Banks said the grand jury will begin any investigation by reviewing the formal complaints along with any response from Kentucky Power and witnesses could be called to testify before the grand jury prior to the town hall meeting. Banks said various witnesses including citizens, elected officials, and representatives of Kentucky Power will be subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury.
Banks said the town hall meeting will be videotaped and made available to the grand jury along with the various records and testimony for its consideration in this matter.
“The grand jury will then issue its report, a copy of which will be forwarded to Kentucky Power Co., the Public Service Commission and made available for the media,” said Banks. “The entire process will likely not be completed until the spring as the grand jury must also perform its regular official duties of investigating all alleged criminal acts referred to it, in addition to conducting an investigation into the causes of the widespread power outages.”