Batavia! You need to keep the power ON

Batavia! You need to keep the power ON

If it weren’t for electricity, we’d all be watching television by candlelight. – George Gobel

It was a scant two Saturdays ago when my wife and I pulled up to the Batavia Trader Joe’s only to encounter a parking lot with a mere smattering of cars. “Wow,” I said, “This is going to be the easiest weekend grocery shopping soiree, ever!”

But that wishful thinking was swiftly dashed on the rocks of reality when the TJ’s front door sentry informed us the power had gone out and they wouldn’t be able to re-open the store for at least 30 minutes.

The prospect of missing most of the Bears game made me seriously consider waiting, but with no guarantee against further electrical setbacks, we turned around and headed to the St. Charles Meijer instead.

On the drive, I couldn’t help but calculate that, between the outage and the time required to reboot the registers, that hourlong empty parking lot meant Trader Joes took at least a mid-five-figure hit, not to mention all of the unhappy customers who were forced to abandon a shopping cart full of groceries.

Of course, we’ve been covering my hometown’s fickle power possibility for some time now.  Though to be fair, I truly believe that Geneva electric utility head honcho Aaron Holton and public works director Rich Babica are doing their best to mitigate the issues, including installing a new East Side substation. But that hasn’t stopped the power from persistently going out at the most peculiar times.

After the last rapid series of September on-off-on-off outages, we lost three electronic devices within the next week. I’m sure if I bring those receipts to the next city council meeting, they’ll rubber stamp that $100 reimbursement. I’ll wait until you stop laughing…

And ain’t that the thing! While city councils, and particularly mayors, love to thrust the follow-the-rules/don’t-miss-a-payment standard on the rest of us, they don’t begin to apply it to themselves. Geneva mayor Kevin Burns’ legendary vindictiveness (you should see the emails I get) if you dare cross him is the height of this kind of hypocrisy.

Batavia mayor Jeff Schielke isn’t much of a step up, he just managed to hide his immaturity a little bit better.

Upon subsequently returning to TJ’s to acquire the items we couldn’t find at Meijer, I cornered two long-time staffers who are aware of my journalistic habit. My first question to them was, “What do you have to do when the power goes out?”

They told me their registers have ten-minute battery backups, which turns the checkout process into a stressful game of beat-the-clock. To their credit, they finished every last one of the in-progress checkouts before they were forced to shut the machines down.

My second question was, “Do most customers wait for the store to resume operation, or with no idea of when the power will be restored, do they simply abandon ship?” They explained that most folks walk away from their carts, which means spending the next couple of hours restocking the items.

What fun! I’d rather be forced to watch the entire Bears game.

My final question was, “How often does this happen?” After they finished laughing, they said, “Far more often than you’d think.”
I didn’t ask about the fiscal hit involved because it’s not terribly difficult to determine what having to close at their Saturday shopper peak does to their bottom line. Not to mention the extra staff time involved in the recovery process.

But I’m sure if TJ’s showed up to the very next Batavia city council meeting, that halcyon group would be more than happy to write them a check to cover their losses, right? I’ll wait until you stop laughing…

No! What you get is the following bullshit excuses:

  • It’s not our fault, it’s ComEd
  • We’re doing the best we can
  • You don’t understand – it’s complicated
  • Why don’t you get a backup generator
  • It’s the cost of doing business in Batavia

among others.

But if a resident begged that same council to defer their electric payment because they’d just been laid off and their wife had to undergo an emergency medical procedure, mayor Schielke would personally turn their power off before the end of the meeting.

Put more simply, they’d never consider their own BS excuses coming from a resident.

I am so flipping fed up with that unabashedly blatant double standard that I’m going to make them an offer. If Batavia can’t figure out a way to keep the power on, and it’s not just TJ’s telling me these sad stories, I will persist in writing about every last one of those lapses. I don’t care if, per the city motto, they have to go back to windmills to make it work.

That means, when prospective residents Google “Batavia, Illinois,” The First Ward is just popular enough for those recurring columns to appear on page one. If you doubt me, Google anyone I’ve written about more than once. Former D304 superintendent Kent Mutchler for example. The First Ward’s two-part series on him is the first result on any search engine and all you have to do is enter his name.

That means those duly diligent folks will swiftly eliminate Batavia from their list of possibilities, which will eventually bring property values down. So, it would behoove Batavia to keep the power on.

If ComEd has issues living up to their end of the contract with the Batavia-owned electrical utility, then the mayor and council need to lean on them until they fix the problem. If that means travelling down to Springfield, then so be it. Those legislators aren’t too terribly happy with ComEd’s bribery propensity as it is.

Either way, I’d advise Batavia to redouble their efforts to keep the power flowing because now the mayor and city council know exactly what will happen if they don’t. Let’s just call it a reasonable form of “encouragement” by which I intend to hold them to their own standard.

And that’s exactly what I intend to do!


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