And, if you did get through, you couldn’t find out when you’d see the lights on again.
So, the I-Team cut through red tape and investigated.
Last week, fierce storms knocked out power all over the area. But, in the city, we found many people were left with no electricity, no way to quickly report an outage and no luck getting any idea how long the lights would be out.
That went on for days.
“I probably called about 10 times,” said Brendan Connolly, who lives on the west side. “It seems like mismanagement. They never know what’s going on.”
He added, “It feels like they don’t care at all. That’s really the feeling.”
We called the Cleveland Public Power (CPP) trouble line. We waited for an answer for as long as 29 minutes. Until then, we heard music and a recording that kept repeating itself. That included, “Our trouble crews are looking for the cause of the outage.” And, “Please remain on the line.”
We sent a request to speak to someone from Cleveland Public Power on camera. Then, we went there. A spokesperson came to the door and said they weren’t going to talk on camera.
So, we asked, “What do we tell people about why it takes 30 minutes to even pick up the phone?”
The spokesperson answered, “Um, no comment.”
Since so many of you sat in the dark waiting for answers, we requested records asking how many people has Cleveland Public Power had answering phones to take your calls asking for help? And, what about those long wait times on hold? And, how many work crews have been on the streets, each day, making repairs even on the weekend?
“At the end of the day, people are paying their light bills, they expect CPP crews to respond,” Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek said.
We found the councilman furious. The councilman spent the weekend reaching out to members of mayor Justin Bibb’s administration.
And, Polensek says, over the weekend, he only saw two crews in his ward on the city’s Northeast side. Now, he plans to have Cleveland Public Power answer to council.
The councilman says he spoke to CPP crews. He added, “Oh yeah, they told me, ‘We need help. We need help out here. We don’t have enough people.’”
Cleveland Public Power issued a statement, saying the following:
Cleveland Public Power crews have been working 24/7 since the storm hit Cleveland at midnight Friday morning, with many on rotating 16-hour shifts. CPP currently has fewer than 500 customers without power across 9 neighborhoods, down from approximately 11,200 at the start of the storm.
We have a full complement of personnel investigating reports of wires down and restoring power to our residents, including 12 crews and additional support staff. When damage is this widespread, each time power is restored to an area there is a good chance that a smaller outage will then be revealed, which requires further investigation and restoration.
The I-Team watched Geraldine Maddox get power back. Crews even had to take heavy equipment into her back yard.
“It’s a blessing. It’s a blessing,” she said.
She also said it shouldn’t be so hard when the lights go out for CPP customers.
“Have better answers,” she said. “Try to do a little better communicating.”
And, Brendan Connolly added, “Just a little customer service would be nice.”
While CPP did not give customers any predictions for when service would be back, FirstEnergy provided its customers with regular updates.
The councilman hopes this can be addressed at a city council hearing. Meantime, the I-TEAM has reported on these same issues dating back to 2021. At one point, the city considered buying a new phone answering system to handle more calls during severe weather. That has yet to happen.