Gulf Power dis­as­ter fund to pay for out-of-state as­sis­tance with storm re­cov­ery

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - Local - BY PATRICK MCCRELESS

Gulf Power has a dis­as­ter fund to pay for the thou­sands of out-of-state line­men and ex­tra equip­ment needed to re­build Bay County’s elec­tri­cal sys­tem af­ter Hur­ri­cane Michael.

But whether that fund can cover the whole re­cov­ery cost isn’t yet known.

“None of that has been thought about yet,” Jeff Rogers, spokesman for Gulf Power, said of the to­tal cost to re­store elec­tric­ity. “We’ve been fo­cused only on restora­tion … but over the next cou­ple of weeks we’ll get more in­for­ma­tion.”

Rogers said the com­pany has a dis­as­ter fund set up with the state to pay for sit­u­a­tions like the hur­ri­cane, which knocked out power in the county three weeks ago.

Money for the fund comes from por­tions of cus­tomers’ elec­tric­ity bills, Rogers said.

“If there isn’t enough in the fund, we may go to the state to ask for more,” Rogers said.

Rogers said power com­pa­nies across the coun­try have sim­i­lar dis­as­ter funds that pay for vis­it­ing re­pair crews and equip­ment.

“It’s al­ways the host com­pany that pays for it,” Rogers said of dis­as­ter re­cov­ery. “Like when we travel, the host com­pany picks up the tab.”

Robert Barnes, a Panama City na­tive who now lives in Ver­non, said he saw peo­ple on the so­cial me­dia site Face­book com- plain­ing about Gulf Power but prais­ing vis­it­ing crews.

Think­ing that Gulf Power was be­ing un­fairly crit­i­cized, Barnes asked The News Her­ald through its Bay Asked, We An­swered se­ries: “Who pays for all of the out-of-state power com­pany crews, equip­ment and sup­plies?”

“I wanted to get some fac­tual in­for­ma­tion out there about what they’ve done,” Barnes said about Gulf Power. “They’ve done a hell of a job get­ting things back up and run­ning.”

Rogers said that to date, power was re­stored to al­most ev­ery­one in the county who can re­ceive elec­tric­ity.

Still, there’s an es­ti­mated 15,000 cus­tomers whose homes and build­ings are too dam­aged to ac­cept power, he said.

“There’s de­stroyed equip­ment, it’s all over … mostly in the hard­est hit ar­eas,” Rogers said. “But, we’ve got peo­ple get­ting re­pairs every day.”

Rogers noted that with the ma­jor restora­tion com­plete, most of the vis­it­ing line­men had left the county.

More than 7,000 peo­ple from power com­pa­nies across the coun­try were in the county at the peak of the re­pair ef­fort.

“We’ve prob­a­bly got about 1,500 now,” Rogers said. “Now we’re in the cleanup phase, mak­ing sure re­pairs were done cor­rectly and check­ing for pos­si­ble weak points.”


Jeff Rogers, spokesman for Gulf Power


Pub­lic Ser­vice Co. of Ok­la­homa util­ity trucks de­liver util­ity poles and trucks Oct. 13 in Panama City, Fla.

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