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Oklahoma City leaders miffed at utility over storm outages

Oklahoma City leaders miffed at utility over storm outages

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City leaders expressed frustration with the widespread power outages caused by an ice storm last month, with one City Council member suggesting that the utility that provides most of the city's electricity could do with some competition.

The Oct. 26 storm knocked out power to more than 445,000 Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company customers, the private utility regulated by the state said Monday. Some customers were without power for a week or more, The Oklahoman reported.

Councilman David Greenwell, who represents Ward 5, suggested Tuesday that OG&E suffers from a lack of oversight and competition, and that the council should pass a resolution or prepare a letter seeking steps “to begin dismantling the monopoly.” Without competition, the company has no incentive to change, said Greenwell, noting that the Norman-based Oklahoma Electric Cooperative has some customers in south Oklahoma City and could be a competitor.

The city is preparing to begin picking up the debris on Monday, according to Utilities Director Chris Browning. City officials estimate that 100,000 tons of debris needs to be removed and that the cleanup effort will finish in March.

Debris pickup is expected to cost $10 million — $8.5 million for pickup and $1.5 million for landfill fees. The Federal Emergency Management Agency could reimburse the city for some of the costs.

Council members also said they are frustrated with the apparent lack of maintenance that allowed tree limbs to down power lines.

“There are systemic failures here,” said Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper. He said he's heard from dozens of constituents whose lives were disrupted by the power outages and noted that he slept on his friends’ couch for a week because his apartment had no electricity.

City Manager Craig Freeman said he would try to have a representative from the electric company at the Nov. 24 meeting to answer the council's questions.

For copyright information, check with the distributor of this item, The Oklahoman.

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