By PHIL NOVAK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
A petition is circulating around Boardman and Youngstown demanding that Ohio Edison be held liable for the damages caused by a power surge on Memorial Day.
Youngstown resident Brian Simmons started the petition after receiving a letter from Ohio Edison denying reimbursement for a damaged dishwasher.
The surge destroyed appliances in as many as 300 homes around the Youngstown-Boardman line when a wooden crossbar collapsed, releasing a 23,000-volt wire onto a lower-voltage wire below. The accident occurred on Southern Boulevard in Boardman, and nearly 900 homes lost power after the surge.
Simmons plans to send the petition to Ohio Edison, several media outlets and possibly U.S. Rep. James Traficant of Poland, D-17th.
"I could understand if it was storming or something, but it was a nice day," he said. "I just don't understand, and a lot of people don't agree with it. So are they saying they are not responsible for anything that happens to your electricity?"
Company's response: Ohio Edison spokesman Ralph DiNicola said the power surge was an accident and they have done nothing wrong.
"We're convinced that there's no negligence on our part, and that the failure of the equipment could not have been predicted," DiNicola said. "We're very sensitive to our customers, but we can't set a precedent that if something fails by no fault of our own we should pay for it. We couldn't afford that over the long run."
Simmons said that after the petition began circulating, he received an anonymous call from someone who said they worked for Ohio Edison. The caller said that there was an order to fix a problem on the wires for more than a year and a half but that the work was never done.
DiNicola said there was some design work done in the vicinity but that it would not have affected the wooden crossbar that broke and that no work was needed on the line.
"We did not overlook anything," he said. "There was nothing that needed to be fixed that didn't get fixed."
Ohio Edison's records indicate that an experienced inspector inspected the lines in April and everything looked fine, DiNicola said.
Want payment for appliances: But several residents lost appliances, and they want Ohio Edison to pay for them.
Joe Metzger of Southern Boulevard in Boardman said the wires fell in his front yard and singed the side of his house and his carpeting inside.
"I think it's blatant negligence on Ohio Edison's part," he said. "They say they're not responsible for power surges, but aren't they responsible for the faulty equipment that causes them?"
Anna Liptak of Havenwood Drive in Boardman lost several appliances, and she said her neighbor was sitting at his computer and was shocked by the surge.
"What if he would have died?" she said. "How could nobody be responsible for that?"
Homeowners insurance carries coverage for artificially generated currents, according to Yvette McClaine of Allstate Insurance, but some insurance companies require a deductible.
"I have a $1,000 deductible, so it's all going to be out of my pocket," Liptak said.