Your Views: Neighbors helped where the city failed

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Your Views: Neighbors helped where the city failed
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To the editor:

As we deal with the heat and humidity of summer, it’s time to talk about our mayor and his priorities, as well as Dominion Power and their monopolistic stranglehold on us all.

First, let me state that all equipment and infrastructure require maintenance and replacement. Some repairs are done under emergency circumstances, and some are scheduled as upgrades. That is a given.

This saga all started with a robo-call on July 22, notifying two full blocks of homes and offices about an emergency need to replace a Dominion electric transformer. First, robo-calls are so prevalent and misused – who even bothers to answer them?

Leaving leaflets in doors would have been a far more effective way to notify residents of an impending “scheduled” outage in this weather. Thankfully a neighbor who did get the robo-call informed me of the scheduled outage.

Now to the details: Dominion needed to replace a failing transformer and viewed it as an emergency, citing service and environmental reasons for doing so on July 26. This maintenance entailed a five-hour power outage from 5 to 10 p.m., the hottest part of the day leading into the darkness of night, all without power.

Let me describe just one affected customer: A wonderful, 97-year-old gentleman who lives independently in his house on one of the affected blocks.

When we contacted Dominion to ask why they chose this worst of all possible maintenance windows on one of the hottest, most humid and unhealthy air days was chosen, they said it was to accommodate some offices in the neighborhood. I then asked why businesses were more important than residents and got no answer.

They said they could not delay maintenance due to leaking oil from the transformer. If this were true or valid, they could have performed the maintenance on the Saturday or Sunday between notification and actual maintenance.

I pointed out that leaving a 97-year-old man home alone in this heat was both immoral and showed contempt for the health and safety of customers. Just imagine your 97-year-old family member traversing a hot and dark house and stairway, and rather than holding on to the railing, holding on to a flashlight?

After hours trying to work within the system with Dominion’s corporate and local offices, I gave up and contacted Wilson. I sent him an email with all of the pertinent information and contact information and work order for Dominion. Wilson replied that the 5 to 10 p.m. maintenance window was cooler than an early morning maintenance window. When I replied with the absurdity of this statement, I heard nothing further and the maintenance proceeded as originally planned.

My communications with both Dominion and the mayor are available upon request, but I encourage all Alexandria residents to think about the following: Dominion is unaccountable and in this instance seemed to be uncaring about the health and well-being of its residential customers. Wilson likewise has a track record of supporting businesses over our residents.

The good news is that despite our city government’s lack of help in this and many instances, our residents are indeed wonderful. Neighbors helped neighbors, and we were able to find a place to be safe, cool and healthy during this unfortunate incident. Not everyone is so lucky.

-Scott Collins, Alexandria

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