I-Team learns why calls to Cleveland Public Power went unanswered during severe weather

I-Team

CLEVELAND (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has uncovered the mystery behind what happened when the power went out in Cleveland during big storms and so many people were unable to get through on the phone to report it.

The I-Team found Cleveland Public Power had no one working after hours in the call center.

Last month, severe storms hit and we heard from city residents who said they spent hours trying to get through to Cleveland Public Power.

The I-Team filed a public record request asking how many people were working in the call center from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. The answer came back as “zero.”

“It’s not acceptable,” said Jayne Reed.

Reed told the I-Team she relies on medical equipment in her home, but it took her six hours to get through to an emergency dispatcher for Cleveland Public Power.

“It’s not OK to send out bills with exorbitant rates when you’re nowhere to be found,” Reed said.

We found no one in the call center that evening, even though the nasty weather had been predicted by forecasters, including the FOX 8 weather team.

Back when we first reported on delays with the phones, the I-Team went to Cleveland Public Power headquarters. When we got to the inside door, a guard locked it and a spokesperson said there would be no interviews.

This time, the I-Team called Martin Keane, the director of public utilities for Cleveland. We asked if we could ask him some questions and record them for broadcast, and he initially said, “All right.”

Then, he said we’d have to go through the mayor’s office.

Yet, last year, I-Team also revealed the call center closed on weekends. At that time, city hall told us of plans to install a new phone system that would dramatically increase the number of calls that could be handled at one time.

That new system has never been installed.

Councilman Brian Kazy now wants answers. He plans to bring this up at a hearing before the City Council Utilities Committee.

Councilman Mike Polensek also reacted.

“But when you’re telling me they had no call takers, that’s bad management,” he said. “Common sense would tell you, you’ve got to take care of your customers, and when you know a storm is coming, you know there’s going to be outages.”

Reed is now watching for change with Cleveland Public Power.

“You don’t even have a telephone system that’s functional,” Reed said.

To show you how far city hall goes to avoid even basic questions, consider what happened when we asked for the typical staffing in the call center. We didn’t get an answer.

The law department referred us to the city budget book, which does not answer the question we asked.

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