LAPORTE | Complaints about power outages lasting for days from June storms led to a request to see if NIPSCO has adequate levels of staff.
The LaPorte County Board of Commissioners is asking the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to review if the personnel NIPSCO has at its maintenance hub in LaPorte and call center in Merrillville is sufficient to provide acceptable service to its customers.
"Ratepayers are paying among the highest rates in the state of Indiana and they deserve a level of service that commensurate with that," LaPorte County attorney Shaw Friedman said.
In 2002, the county was successful in a legal fight all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court forcing NIPSCO to keep open maintenance hubs in LaPorte and other locations. NIPSCO wanted to close some of its maintenance centers and have linemen and other repair technicians dispatched from their homes.
Friedman said the county was assured the maintenance hubs would be staffed at a certain level and one of the goals of a review by the IURC is to make sure those numbers have not fallen.
One of the concerns expressed by the commissioners is whether NIPSCO relies too heavily on contractors from outside its service area coming in to restore power, instead of having enough locally-hired individuals who know the area better and can respond quicker.
NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer said there were 130,000 customers without power in the utility's service area during the storms, including 10,000 in LaPorte County. And, restoring power to that many customers naturally takes time.
He said the call center on the average handles between 800 to 950 calls per day but during the storms nearly 9,000 calls were made to the center.
Meyer also said NIPSCO is willing to discuss the concerns with LaPorte County officials.