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Published: Saturday, 8/5/2006

Brownouts in Cygnet have some seeing red; people scramble when lights dim

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

CYGNET, Ohio - Diane Hudson doesn't mince words when it comes to the regular power outages she and her husband, Bill, have had to deal with while trying to run their grocery store and carryout in this southern Wood County village.

"It's ruining our business," she said. "People in town get upset when they want to buy something and they don't want to drive out of town at $3 a gallon for gas."

On Monday, Cygnet may have broken its own record as its antiquated electric system went down nine times.

"We lost at least $600 in business because out of every hour from 2:30 on the power was out for at least 15 minutes and we had to close the store down," Mrs. Hudson said. "You can't let anyone in. There are no lights. You don't want the cool air to escape. You can't run the registers."

They also have to disconnect the coolers and freezers that line the store's walls as well as ice cream equipment, computers, and air conditioners to protect them from burning out.

Nate Frost, who moved to Cygnet four years ago, has started a petition drive to get the village to do something to fix the problem. Like many of the town's 243 electric customers, he's had enough.

Diane Hudson, left, rings up a sale, as her husband, Bill, bags items for customers at their Cygnet grocery and carryout.
Diane Hudson, left, rings up a sale, as her husband, Bill, bags items for customers at their Cygnet grocery and carryout.
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"My biggest beef is the village needs to make some sort of decision on what it's going to do," he said.

Joe Wright, who sits on the three-member Board of Public Affairs which oversees local utilities, said the board has scheduled a town meeting for 7 p.m. Sept. 11 at the fire hall. He said at that time residents will be given a choice: Transfer control of the village's electric distribution lines to Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative Inc. or retain local control but come up with the money to upgrade the system.

"I have my opinion, but it's whatever the town wants," Mr. Wright said, declining to say which option seemed best to him. "I assume we will have a vote of some sort and get this rolling. They're upset."

Ruth Haas, longtime mayor of the village just off I-75 about 35 miles south of Toledo, said she's tired of hearing people's complaints. She's tired too of the "brownouts" that have been more frequent this summer because of the heat and heavy demand for electricity to power air conditioners.

"When it goes to a brownout, which is low voltage, that's when it burns up people's TVs, hot tubs, things like that," she said. "That's the dangerous part if you're not home to pull [the plugs on] all this stuff. The minute it happens, my husband and I are two busy people. We run around and pull everything."

The brownouts tend to be short - 15 minutes or so on average.

Mr. Wright said the outages do not last any longer than it takes a village employee to go change a fuse.

As of yesterday, there had not been another brownout since Monday's record day.

Mayor Haas said the village installed a larger fuse that can withstand higher demands for power, and it also trimmed trees that were rubbing up against distribution lines.

"They're trying to fix things," she said.

Mayor Haas said residents would have the opportunity to have a say in a more permanent solution for the town's electric challenges at next month's meeting.

"I want everyone to come," she said.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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