Rock Falls Officials Admit Fault In Shutting Off Power - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Rock Falls Officials Admit Fault In Shutting Off Power

Posted: Updated: Feb 10, 2014 10:13 PM
City leaders in Rock Falls, Ill. are admitting fault after some residents say their power was turned off despite below-freezing temperatures.

Both Illinois and Iowa have laws prohibiting utility companies from cutting off power when temperatures dip below freezing.

It was a week of negative wind chills and temperatures hovering near zero when Kerry McGrady says the City of Rock Falls told him his power was going to be shut off.

"They left a voicemail saying they would be here first thing in the morning to disconnect all my utilities," but McGrady said the day those utilities were set to be disconnected was forecasted to be a cold one.

"At the time I think it was two degrees below zero."

McGrady feared for his family's health and safety, so he scrambled to find a way to keep the lights on and the heat running.

"I was terrified," he said. "I actually called them back numerous times. I didn't know who to speak to, where to turn. I said, isn't it basically against the law for you to cut it off?"

The answer is yes. But, the state laws don't apply to city-run utility services, which is how it works in Rock Falls. So, it doesn't appear the city broke any state laws.

Still, it does appear the city broke its own ordinance -- which states power cannot be cut off when temperatures dip below 20 degrees.

Rock Falls City Administrator Robbin Blackert admits, during the month of January, on days when temperatures were forecasted for lower than 20 degrees, electricity to a few households was shut off.

Blackert says staff was following the bill payment protocol they were trained on and the violation was a mistake.

Residents we spoke to think city workers should familiarize themselves to the policy so this doesn't happen again.

"I think when it's this cold, under no circumstances should they cut the power off," said Patrick Gerlach.

"I don't think they should shut anybody's utilities off when it's that cold," agreed Dennis Morath.

Rock Falls Mayor William Wescott says the city is sending a letter to the customers who had their power shut off during the month of January. The city will also credit them for the fees they paid to turn their power back on.

But, a reminder to residents, when the temperature isn't 20 degrees or below, the city will hold everyone accountable for paying their bills. And that could result in a utility shut-off.