SAN LEANDRO — October’s Pacific Gas & Electric power shutoffs, which darkened traffic intersections and left thousands of residents without electricity for hours, cost San Leandro an estimated $15,000 in overtime for police and other city employees.
San Leandro police Capt. Luis Torres, the city’s emergency services manager, told the City Council on Monday that the city cannot currently recoup the money from PG&E because the Public Utilities Commission authorized the utility to shut off power.
“That’s overtime,” Torres said about the amount generated during the two shutoffs, as crews dealt with downed trees and other tasks. “That’s not including any on-duty time for anybody or for the managers who were working.”
The city should look at working with state officials at getting reimbursed, Councilman Pete Ballew said.
“I don’t know if we will ever be able to reclaim the money from behind,” Ballew said. “But at least we can have the mechanism in place, that if this continues, that we will be able to present a bill.”
Last month, Lafayette Mayor Mike Anderson sent a letter to Marybel Batjer, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, asking the commission to order PG&E to reimburse Lafayette $26,000 for overtime costs — and to require PG&E to compensate all cities for costs associated with future power shutoffs.
PG&E shut off electricity to homes and businesses twice in San Leandro in October to avoid the possibility of the company’s equipment and power lines sparking wildfires because of dangerous weather conditions.
The first outage in San Leandro happened around 11:45 p.m. Oct. 9 and continued until about 3:30 p.m. the next day. It left about 1,200 PG&E customers without power. Among buildings where the lights went out were City Hall and the police department, which relied on a generator to keep power on.
The generator, however, was especially noisy and its exhaust fumes prompted tests of the air quality, leading the city’s Emergency Operations Center, made up of department heads and other key officials, to switch rooms, Torres said.
The second shutoff began about 8:30 p.m. Oct. 26 because of to gusty winds and lasted about 37 hours, cutting energy to the radio tower that police use under the East Bay Regional Communication System, which provides services for public agencies in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
The system, however, switched San Leandro to a different tower so first responders could still field calls, Torres said.
Crews from San Leandro’s public works department responded to about 40 reports of downed trees or branches during the second outage.
During both shut-offs in October, intersections along East 14h Street did not have functioning traffic signals.
Some businesses in Washington Plaza also were without power for a time.
“This thing was a pain,” City Manager Jeff Kay said about the shutoffs. “It was for the community, and it was for us. A lot of city operations pretty much ground to a halt while we dealt with this.”
But Kay said the outages still allowed San Leandro officials to hone their skills responding to a citywide crisis, which will make them better prepared in the event of an earthquake or major disaster.
The council took no formal action after getting the update from Torres. But the city may try to offset the impact of any future shutoffs by launching a secondary radio system that first responders can use in the event their primary one fails, and installing emergency generators in libraries or other city buildings so that people have places to gather during an outage.
Torres told the council the city will apply for a grant from the governor’s office of emergency services to fund emergency equipment and services related to shutoffs. Up to $500,000 is available per city.
PG&E began implementing widespread blackouts after a string of deadly Northern California wildfires in recent years that were linked to their equipment or power lines. PG&E equipment was responsible for sparking last year’s Camp Fire, which killed 86 people and devastated the town of Paradise, according to state investigators.
Source: East Bay PG&E power shutoffs cost East Bay city ,000