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10-10-12


KCP&L: Burrowing
animals causing outages
Hotels in Tiffany Springs say they
are frustrated by inconsistent service

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark reporter

The area southeast of the Kansas City International Airport has been identified by many as an area frequented by electrical service outages.

Hoteliers in the Tiffany Springs area claim the outages result in significant damages each time a service outage occurs, and at least one hotel company has filed a damage claim with KCP&L to recover the hotel's lost funds.

When the power suddenly goes off the hotel's staff will often have to relocate hotel guests, as well as banquet events to another hotel, which can be quite costly.

Courtney Hughley, spokesperson for KCP&L, said the utility company is aware of the outages and has taken numerous actions to address the problem area, including replacing several sections of underground cable in the area.

“We've gone in and replaced several sections of wire, because the area where the cable is located is very prone to issues arising out of animals that burrow into the ground,” said Hughley.

In addition to replacing cables, KCP&L replaced equipment at area substations following a major storm last August, which resulted in the second largest amount of damages in KCP&L's history.

Hughley said since taking additional action to improve the reliability in the area there have been fewer service outages, but KCP&L continues to struggle with animals that dig into the ground.

“I'm in no way saying that we are hundred percent never going to have any issues in that area again,” said Hughley. “Unfortunately we can't guarantee service 100 percent of the time,” she said.

KCP&L is a regulated utility and follows specific guidelines set forth by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

According to those rules, KCP&L is not responsible for damages if “equipment fails during the ordinary course of usage or if there is an outage caused by an act of nature or something out of their control…” said Hughley.

And since the service outages near Tiffany Springs are out of KCP&L's control, the utility company is not financially responsible for the damages suffered by area hotels, she explained.

Even so, customers can still file a damage claim with KCP&L, which will provoke an investigation. Hughley acknowledged there have been “times when KCP&L has had to pay damage claims, but not in these instances because they are an act of nature.”

Hughley said KCP&L has provided service to the area since 2008. The company that serviced the area prior to 2008 did not spend adequate funding on area infrastructure for a significant period of time.

KCP&L says over the last four years it has tried to address those problems and make the necessary upgrades.

“We are making strides,” and we will continue to address issues that arise, she said.

Currently KCP&L is examining the patterns of outages in the area and considering additional measures, as well as equipment to stop future outages.

Additionally, area hotels are assigned a KCP&L employee so there is an open line of communication between KCP&L workers and hotel managers regarding upgrades to the system. Hoteliers then have a direct line of contact when a power outage occurs.

“So we are doing a lot on a regular base to address the needs of customers in those areas,” said Hughley.