Editorial: Ohio Edison Disregards Private Businesses Downtown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — For many downtown Youngstown businesses, yesterday wasn’t the final day of a long weekend. It was the start of a typical workweek. Or not so typical, as they found themselves without power for the first two hours of the workday and then again at 2 p.m. until nearly the end of the business day.

Ohio Edison gave advanced notice to many – but apparently not all – of its downtown customers who would be affected by a pair of planned outages scheduled to accommodate work being done at the U.S. Postal Service’s main office downtown.

The first was scheduled for 8 a.m. and expected to run until 9:30 a.m., although some businesses reported not having power restored until nearly 11 a.m. A second outage was scheduled, then rescheduled, then rescheduled again for later in the day.

The outage was to affect about 100 Ohio Edison customers at 40 downtown addresses, including, we should note, The Business Journal. As a local news organization with a staff whose work — like all businesses — is dependent on electricity, we certainly can relate to the frustrations of companies, large and small, that were affected by the outage. In nearly 32 years downtown, we don’t recall a similar situation taking place during the work week.

Presidents Day, we understand, was chosen for the power outages to minimize disruption to businesses. But not all businesses observe the schedule for federal holidays. One survey we found showed only 34% of organizations observe Presidents Day as a paid holiday.

In most cases, private businesses had to start operations later in the morning. Our staff ended up working from home or from cell phones until the morning shutdown ended, and then again when the afternoon shutdown began. WFMJ Television worked with Valley Electric Consolidated to maintain operations. But its noon and 6 p.m. newscasts were disrupted.

While many law firms might have been closed because courts were closed, we can only wonder how tax attorneys or, for that matter, accountants, felt about lost time during tax season, one already complicated by the new tax law and the recent partial shutdown of the federal government.

At least two operations that we are aware of – longtime downtown business MS Consultants and Mercy Health’s data processing center on Commerce Street – were not notified of the power outages. Their employees arrived at work to sit in the dark, with no heat, according to multiple sources.

This is simply unacceptable.

If we take the word of Ohio Edison representatives who say the utility notified everyone who would lose power, that’s not exactly a confidence booster. Don’t they know all their customers on the power circuits that were shut down? Nor are we satisfied that worker availability prevented scheduling the work on a weekend to minimize disruption.

In all, despite assertions to the contrary, scheduling not one but two daylight outages on the first day of the work week was neither customer- nor business-friendly, and seemed designed to accommodate two organizations – Ohio Energy parent FirstEnergy and the Postal Service. The rest of us were left to make the best of a poorly thought-out scenario – and poorly executed as well, as some buildings were without power more than an hour later than the scheduled restarts.

We would hope Ohio Edison would be more conscientious about the needs of downtown businesses – and more respectful of private businesses that cannot close for a paid Monday holiday every time the government does. The utility’s high-handedness is something regulators should keep in mind the next time it seeks a rate increase.

Pictured at top: Ohio Edison workers make repairs during the second scheduled power outage yesterday.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.