The Letcher County Grand Jury is placing the blame for a widespread power outage, which affected many households in the county this past winter, on Kentucky Power Company officials.
After more than 10 inches of heavy snow fell in Letcher County on Dec. 18, around 7,000 residents lost electrical power. Most of the power wasn’t restored until Dec. 22, and several households didn’t have power back on until Dec. 24.
“The grand jury is of the opinion that the primary cause of the widespread power outages and the delays in restoring electricity are the result of decisions of the current top management officials,” said a report issued by the grand jury.Th
e grand jury investigated the causes of the power outage after several hundred people attended a public forum on Jan. 23 hosted by Letcher County Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison Banks, Letcher County Attorney Harold Bolling, Letcher County Judge/ Executive Jim Ward, the Letcher County Fiscal Court and Letcher County Sheriff Danny Webb. Several hundred individuals also completed surveys provided by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office detailing how long residents went without power and what they thought were contributing factors to the power outages.
The grand jury also cited the power company’s request for a 35 percent rate increase as a reason to investigate the power outages.
“Although the major snowstorm of Dec. 18 was predicted by all of the local and national weather programs, Mr. Timothy Mosher, the president of the Kentucky Power Company, stated that he and his staff had no idea that the significant snowfall was expected. Indeed, Mr. Mosher went on to state that the linemen and repair crews normally assigned to eastern Kentucky were diverted to other states where he expected heavy snowfall,” the grand jury said in its report.
“As a result of this decision, at least a couple of days were lost while out-of-state crews from Arkansas, Louisiana and other states were sent to eastern Kentucky. Once (the crews were) here, the work areas had to be surveyed and the repairs were further delayed due to the lack of experience of the out-of-state crews with the terrain of eastern Kentucky.
“As a result of repairing the downed power lines and replacing transformers and power poles as required, the local officials and members of the volunteer fire departments and (members) of the Pine Mountain Rescue Squad traveled throughout the county to assist those in need and to clear the roads of the many fallen trees. Further, these witnesses were all of opinion that lack of forestry maintenance of the right-of-way by Kentucky Power Company was the cause of the many fallen trees, which in turn were the direct cause in nearly every case of the downed power lines and poles.”