Crews on the job to fix South Venice power problems

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VENICE, Fla. – Recently we told you about power problems in a South Venice neighborhood, where about 120 homes were regularly losing power on an on-going basis. But this week crews are working to fix old lines and polls.

"I saw them on the road and I even stopped to thank them for coming." Patricia Blekas says the weekly interruptions, which lasted for hours, were a big concern for her and her neighbors in this older community. "A lot of people are on oxygen. A lot of people are on medical equipment that need the electricity. They don't have generators."

Florida Power and Light spokesperson Dave McDermitt came from corporate headquarters in the Miami area to talk to us about the situation. "We understand how frustrating it can be for customers when they are out of service."

He says in older areas they do run into issues with older equipment, but their smart grid technology told them there were problems here. They just needed the right equipment to be engineered while planning a long range solution. "Rather than apply a Band-aid approach, we wanted to execute an engineered long term solution."

"The whole neighborhood knows it's because of you guys." Blekas says it wasn't until ABC 7’s initial story aired that the neighborhood started getting some real communication. “If it wasn't for you, I don't think we would have gotten any results, because we had tried for weeks and no one would listen to us. We were given different explanations."

FPL says our initial story didn't have any impact, saying they were busy clearing power lines of vegetation and again getting a plan and equipment together -- 4,000 feet of lines and a half a dozen poles. They were also apparently hiring subcontractors to do the work.

"During that time, we also got some complaints from customers after in fact we had started the work."

McDermitt says in Sarasota County alone this year, they are going to clear 1,000 miles of vegetation from power lines and inspect 15,000 poles.

As for the work in South Venice, he says things should be much better. "We appreciate the patience of our customers in this neighborhood. We apologize for the inconvenience and we are happy we are to the point of improving their service."

A far as a fix for Patricia and her neighbors, they don't really care with what, who, why and how. They’re happy these days with when. "As long as they get the job done, I don't care who is doing it, to tell you the truth."

FPL says the work, which was always scheduled to be complete by the end of July, is actually now ahead of schedule.