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Sunday, July 20, 2008

St. Paul / Power shutoffs increase fourfold

Please click onto the COMMENTS for the story.


Blogger Bob said...

Electricity rules can cause headaches for homeowners
By Dave Orrick
Article Last Updated: 07/19/2008 09:34:16 PM CDT

The number of homes in St. Paul without power for a month has nearly quadrupled this year over last year at this time.

The situation is likely more fallout from the housing crisis and crummy economy, combined with a "normal" winter that racked up higher heating bills than those of recent years, utility and city officials say.

Because state law prohibits heat and power shutoffs until April 15, spring and summer always bring a wave of shutoffs. But this year is worse, according to figures supplied by Xcel Energy and St. Paul.

As of the first day of July, 397 homes had been cut off by Xcel for more than 30 days, compared with 105 last July 1.

Marion Pearson's house was one of the 397. And as she discovered, losing power in St. Paul can lead to a host of other headaches.

Like condemnation.

Pearson's husband of many years had moved out of their home at 1147 W. Central Ave., she said at a recent City Council meeting, where she testified in hopes of not getting kicked out by the city. Even though Pearson is listed as the sole owner of the house, her husband had always paid the Xcel bill, and it was in his name only.

She's an older woman, she told council members, and she hadn't thought about the power bill in years. When the electricity was shut off, it took her awhile to figure out the problem. Too long, it appears.

The city condemned her house and ordered her to vacate. After Pearson explained to council members what had happened and that she was in the process of working out a payment plan with the utility, she asked one question: "Will I be able to stay in my house?"

You can't live without electricity in St. Paul. It's illegal. Along with other essential "facilities" — fresh water and a few sinks, a toilet and sewage service, and a modern heat source — every residential dwelling in St. Paul must have electricity.

"This is not rural Minnesota where you can have a corncob stove in the back yard," Council President Kathy Lantry said in an interview. "People today want electricity, and they'll find a way to get it. It's our job to make sure it's safe."

If someone wants to live "off the grid," he can, as long as an inspector signs off on the set-up. But that's hardly the norm.

Extension cords strung between houses, poison-emitting gas stoves used to heat entire homes and other makeshift solutions are all-too-common sights for city inspectors when they discover someone has been living without utility service. Such fixes are dangerous, not only to the occupants but also their neighbors, city officials say.

Few other municipalities have enforcement as strict as St. Paul, and it's unclear how the economy is affecting utility customers elsewhere. Despite St. Paul's quadrupling shutoff rate, disconnections are actually down about 2.7 percent statewide, according to Xcel's figures. Utility officials suspect numerous shutoffs have been avoided so far by an influx of government funds, including the federal Low-Income Heating Assistance Program and the economic-stimulus tax-rebate checks.

Unlike other municipalities in Xcel's service, St. Paul receives weekly reports from the utility on homes where power has been shut off and not restored for 30 days. The city immediately sends out an inspector. If the home is occupied, the inspector condemns the place and tells the occupants to move out.

"It's sad," said Bob Kessler, who heads the city's Department of Safety and Inspections, whose inspectors inform people they can no longer live in their homes. "We try to find them a charity to help pay the bills or maybe a place to stay, but in this economy, there are some people who just can't pay."

If the inspector finds the home empty, he or she recommends it for the vacant-housing list.

Bonnie Mae Gear's place was empty. The vacancy notice was the first Gear knew there was a problem with the house she owns at 1301 E. Minnehaha Ave. She lives in Vadnais Heights and had rented the home to a woman for seven years.

The tenant moved out without telling Gear. But she did tell Xcel to kill the power.

Xcel generally doesn't track down the owner of a home before disconnecting electricity. Patrick Boland, manager of credit policy and compliance, said sorting through ownership papers can be complicated, especially in today's environment, where overseas financial institutions often have an interest.

"Generally, the resider is responsible for paying," Boland said.

So Gear was never told, until the city tracked her down to tell her the house was scheduled to be placed on the city's official vacancy list.

Being on the vacant-housing list in St. Paul kicks in a host of fees and building-code rules that would otherwise not be a problem for older homes built under different building codes. Among other small problems with Gear's house, inspectors said the porch needed railings and the door needed a new screen. Meanwhile, the place couldn't be rented, they said.

Gear pleaded her case before the City Council, showing photos of the clean interior, including new windows and carpeting and a refinished bathroom with a new toilet.

"Why did this have to happen?" she said.

In the end, technically, the system worked for both Gear and Pearson after they made the trip to City Hall and testified. Council members voted to give Pearson more time to work out a payment plan with Xcel, and Gear was afforded a chance for an immediate inspection to avoid being placed on the vacant-housing list.

Lantry, who presides over such council proceedings, said later it may have seemed obvious that Gear's home should not have been caught up in a bureaucratic machine designed to avoid unsafe or unsanitary housing, but the city must enforce its rules.

"We don't have the luxury of saying, 'This person's a reasonable person,' " Lantry said. "We can't show favoritism and subjectivity. This system is the only way the city can protect its residents and its property."

8:48 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Now, if you work for or are affiliated with the city there is a different set of RULES. They will asses your property tax's

Lantry said;

"We don't have the luxury of saying, 'This person's a reasonable person,' " Lantry said. "We can't show favoritism and subjectivity. This system is the only way the city can protect its residents and its property."

my response;

Keep drinking the kool-aid Kathy, it has blinded you to the fact the masses are being informed of the shenanigans this city plays on it's citizens. You and your pets on the city council are less than honorable.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lantry said-

This system is the only way the city can protect its residents and its property."

"notice what Lantry said here? She veiws all property in the city as belonging to the city. Typical liberal thinking". The government owns everything. We as citizens just have the luxury of pretending to own a home. commie!

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We just pay taxes so the city council can supply their friends with grants to build on the east side.
The deal with the Excel Center, the owner of the Wild Team cleaned up on the 80 million dollars that Excel
paid to put their name on the builing.
Then re-nigged on paying the city back on the loan, tax payer paid again.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are NO Ethics in St.Paul.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everything Lantry says is a joke. This self serving and status seeking bitch could care less about anything or anyone but herself.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

both of them are force out their homes last week. More homeless people and less tax dollars for the city. No other city does this to its people.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who cares for the people like that .. Not the city council

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The city is attacking it's poor population.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Nancy Lazaryan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob keeps posting the new stories all the time, but the same old government controlling stuff still keeps happening by our elected officials. Thune got reelected last fall and so did Lantry. I know a guy named Michael Gay worked very hard to defeat Thune, but he should have had a better candidate to work for. Why do these people keep getting elected? Well the answer is simple because no one cares to vote or get involved is saving St. Paul. I hear the big talk here and I agree with many comments that are said, but you don’t do anything but write on this blog. Repke is laughing at you guys. This is Repke’s entertainment in the sad socialist life he lives.

How many times have individuals here called the city on Thune? How many times have pictures of Thune's messy house have been posted here and on other blogs and the city keeps covering for Thune? Pull up the public record on Thune and you will see how he has been treated differently. Many complaints have been made against Thune and DSI and Fire covers for Thune and these complaints are considered a joke down at DSI and Fire. Some even say, "Hay Thune got another one, who wants it." A supervisor from DSI like Steve Z. will handle it and it just goes away. Allowances are given to Thune that you or I would get nailed for like what happened to the individuals above.

Bob has tried to light the fire of change and so have others here, but trying to get more individuals involved is really hard. People are very busy just trying to keep their head above water, paying St. Paul's high property taxes that folks like Lantry and Thune feel is "their" money. People like Thune, Repke and Lantry and the rest of the Progressive DFL crowd keep getting their way because no one is willing to stand up to them.

Our US Constitution is clearly designed to hold government accountable to the people and to let the people rise up and take over government when the government oversteps their role. The Progressive DFL crowd in St. Paul feels that government knows best and they put restrictions under the pretext of public safety to exert total control over the citizens. Example: The city wanted to regulate bars and restaurants for their Green agenda, so Thune pushes the no smoking ban. Thune's argument is that these bars are public places where people gather and they should be smoke free. The free market needs to decide this, not be regulated by a city council member who smokes in his public city council office.

It should be the government working for the people instead of the situation that we have now where the people are slaves to the government.

The Progressive DFL crowd bans and restricts everything and then they state that it is just for our own safety, all the while taking away more of our rights and controlling us. Repke, Thune and Lantry are prime examples of this way of thinking, as they feel that this their right for government to control every aspect of your life for your own good. This is not what Thomas Jefferson and John Adams intended, but just the opposite.

So when you all are really serious about change, and want to stand up for your rights to hold government accountable like Franklin, Adams and Jefferson intended, please let us all know.

How many more rights are you going to give up to the Progressive DFL crowd in St. Paul? The city where nothing is allowed.

Remember St. Paul's new motto, "More to Life"

12:41 PM  
Blogger Nancy Lazaryan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Leslie K. Lucht said...

397 in one month. Next Monthn there will be about 500 shutoff.

What is the total shutoff for the year.

Now about the law. Excel can not discuss your bill with everyone.
If they have your permission.

I know that the people that have their power shutoff did not give Xcel
permission to tell the city.

State codes said you turnoff your power at anytime for upgrades to
your building.
The state code does not say thing in saftey code book about Power being shutoff is Saftey issures.

Its the city of St.Paul tell people how to live. And comply with
their codes.

So, there is about 3,700 vacants home. And it reports about 2000

Now there is about 397 more home as of July. Ok so, its about 2397
report. So, Nov 01.2008 there will be about 5000 home that vacant. 5000 less taxprayer.
Your taxes are going up and up.
guest who is going to pick up the shortfall.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Republican or democrat.Its a dangerous idea to have one party in control of one town.That is the problem with St.Paul.Republicans don't vote because no one runs as a democrat.They know they will be defeated.Democrats know they don't have to vote because a democrat will win.This is the reason there is low voter turn out and the reason this town will fail.


1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim I hear ya clucken' big chicken.


1:09 PM  
Anonymous Bill Cullen said...

I missed this article in pioneer press. Was there even a peep of an outcry? I cannot think of a more mean spirited thing to do to the low income folk amongst us.

Xcel and Centerpoint sent out warnings a few days ago that their rates may climb as much as 50% next year. Then what? condemn a few thousand homes a year?

I cannot help but notice that the defenders of big government are not here defending....

Bill Cullen.

9:53 PM  

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