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168 Days: Actions & Reactions

By Ken Snyder

As we got further into the time that DOL was investigating my case certain incidents were noted.

One memory in particular related to the signal control cabinet at Victory Drive and Praun Lane. This was one location that Sisson and I had been dispatched to regarding signals that weren't working properly. When a control cabinet loses power and power is later restored, they initially go through a period where the signals will go to a predetermined blinking pattern (sometimes flashing red, flashing yellow, or a combination of flashing red and yellow) until everything is powered up and has been determined to be operting correctly. Once this period has been successfully completed the signals will start functioning normally. However, if things don't pass the diagnostics the intersection will continue to show the blinking pattern until someone repairs what has malfunctioned.

Such was the case here: the controller would not resume normal operation after power had dropped off. The cabinet was equipped with a Multisonics® controller (read about problems with Multisonics® controllers here) and power in the area had been interrupted. Sure enough, the intersection did not return to normal operation; this meant someone would have to come out and reset the controller. One time I actually saw Sisson at the intersection when it was malfunctioning. Some time later, we had another power interruption in the neighborhood, and once again the intersection malfunctioned. Since the cabinet is in a location easily visible and between my house and several locations I go to (southwest of my house) I notice it often. I can only guess that someone thought I was tampering with it, as one day there was a padlock on the cabinet handle. Let me make one thing clear: I never have, and never would, tamper with a signal control cabinet. My friends and family travel these streets (and in this area, a whole lot more than people in the Traffic Signal Shop do, whether they're on-duty or off-duty) and it would be my luck that someone in my family, one of my friends, or myself would be involved in an accident where a signal malfunctioned. Eventually the padlock disappeared, probably when they realized it was the controller reacting to power loss and not someone tampering with it.

Another incident took place in October 2010 when we were having power issues in our neighborhood. Trees had grown into power distribution lines behind our house and were causing fluctuations in the power -- I still think this caused my entertainment system's demise. On Saturday, 23 October at approximately 8:10PM (well after dark) the power went off; I did not notice that BPU crews were working behind our houses. Much earlier that day, my neighbor had called BPU about the power lines sparking behind our houses, and they had finally showed up. When I did notice flashlights in my neighbor's back yard I went out to see what happened. Hearing my neighbor talking in the darkness, I made a comment on how it would have been nice to know something was going on.

To my surprise another voice in the darkness mentioned me by my name: "Mr. Snyder, you know we don't notify people when the power goes out." After not talking with me since July, and of all the residences in Kansas City, Kansas, Clark recognized me in the darkness and felt compelled to respond. Well after dark, he had a tree-trimming crew addressing branches into power lines in, of all places, the lines that provided power to my house (as well as several of my neighbors). Typical BPU response to non-outage calls on the weekend? Hell, you can't get them to replace burned-out street lights in a timely manner until someone gets hurt or killed -- so why did this have to happen after eight o'clock in the evening on a Saturday?

I decided to attend the December Ethics Commission meeting to see if they had any answers. Not surprisingly they were as evasive and non-committal as they could be. In fact, it appeared that no one knew a thing about my request for information, although (more about this later) information I thought was being handled in confidence was already being spun through BPU by DeLeon.


Next: 7 January 2011
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