In response to a recent series of power outages in the Maplewood Road area of Riverside, representatives from ComEd came before the Riverside village board last month to explain ongoing and upcoming maintenance projects the company has planned to improve electric service to the village.

According to John O’Neill of ComEd, of the 12 circuits currently serving Riverside’s 3,900 customers, 77 percent of service disruptions in the 2005-06 fiscal year occurred along just two circuits. Altogether there were eight outages along one circuit, which serves 8 percent of the village, and 31 outages along the another, which serves 30 percent of the village, including the Maplewood area.

Trustee Kevin Smith noted that the high number of outages along that circuit placed it among the worst 1 percent of ComEd’s circuits, and led to Riverside having more than twice the average power outages per customer than ComEd’s overall service area.

“Our community deserves better service than the bottom 1 percent,” Smith said.

O’Neill agreed the situation was unacceptable, but explained ComEd was attempting to reduce the number of outages by increasing tree trimming around power lines and updating and improving circuit equipment.

O’Neill said 58 percent of the power outages or disruptions along the two circuits were weather- or tree-related, with tree branches knocking into power lines and either cutting off power entirely or causing the system to briefly de-energize itself. He said ComEd crews will be trimming trees away from power lines along the two circuits until the end of August in order to limit such disruptions.

ComEd crews will also be updating equipment along the two circuits, O’Neill said, replacing connectors and wires and “sectionalizing” the circuits. In effect, the work will break circuits down into smaller groups so that when an outage occurs, fewer households will be affected. This maintenance work will be completed by December, he said.

While board members said they appreciated ComEd’s attention to the problems in Riverside, there was some sentiment from trustees and residents in the audience that a more permanent solution to the outages could be found. For example, Trustee John Scully suggested that ComEd should reduce the number of houses on the worst circuit, and one resident questioned why the power lines couldn’t simply be buried underground.

O’Neill dismissed both suggestions, however, explaining that other circuits in the ComEd system function well with a comparable number of customers as the Maplewood Road circuit, and that Riverside would be responsible for the cost of burying power lines within the village.

Despite those feelings suggesting that ComEd’s maintenance may only fix the problems for the short-term, Village Manager Kathleen Rush said she was satisfied with their response to the outage increases.

“I do think they adequately addressed the issue,” she said in a separate interview. “It’s difficult, knowing the size of their system, to be on top of everything at once. But when this issue was brought to their attention, they reacted quickly and appropriately.”