you're reading...

Cornelius News

Power failures downtown electrify merchants, churches

featured_powerlinesdownDowntown Cornelius businesses—and churches—are seeing red because of power outages that have shut down retailers and even weddings during the past month.

Town officials also say a couple of things have gone wrong:

  •  Construction on Zion Street has gone far past promised deadlines. Zion was supposed to have re-opened a month ago. When the power goes out, the railroad crossing gates at Hickory Street go down and stay down, trapping anyone east of South Main Street along Zion.
  •  Contractors at the new Harris Teeter have knocked down power lines, shutting down service throughout much of the downtown area at least twice.

Mayor Chuck Travis declared that police and firefighters would take a chainsaw to rail crossing arms, if they are stuck in the down position, to allow emergency vehicles through.

“This is construction, major construction, which is an art, not a science,” the mayor said. Compaction of the Zion Street roadbed has been problematic.

Nevertheless, merchants are angry.



“The power has gone out for all small businesses on Catawba Avenue for more than an hour at least four times in the last 90 days leaving my students to do nothing more than puppet shows for the passing cars,” said Rob Muhlestein, owner of SkilStak Coding Arts at 21347 Catawba Ave.

He has lost as much as $500 a day when power outages shut down his academy.

“I work with very tight margins as a nano-school but more importantly I turned away disappointed children for Minecraft Camp one of whom traveled from Kannapolis for it. I spoke with other business owners and made a rough anecdotal estimate of lost downtown business during these outages of over $5,000 for both the power outages. Small potatoes to some, but if we really want to grow downtown business we need some accountability with teeth. Shouldn’t we at least be fining those responsible for these outages? Reflective warnings on the power lines clearly were not enough to prevent it from happening again. Maybe a $20,000 fine would,” he said.

The inexactness of construction in the midst of red clay, cold weather and on-and-off rain may be the root cause, but ElectriCities, the electric utility for some of the town, is taking some of the heat.

Kathy Morey, manager of ElectriCities, says “there’s nothing quite as frustrating as the power going out, especially when it happens several times in one month.”

She said lengthy power outages that occurred in November were caused by accidents near the Harris Teeter construction. “These accidents caused considerable damage that interrupted service and our local crews worked non-stop to restore power as quickly as possible. We continue to educate construction companies on safe practices to avoid similar construction-related outages in the future,” she said.