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Neighbors to fight for Progress Energy reimbursement

ST. PETERSBURG — Homeowners in the Woodlawn neighborhood are preparing to fight Progress Energy in their quest to be reimbursed for thousands of dollars in property damage they sustained this year.

"We're going to take it to an attorney," said Lynn Woolums, adding that he and his neighbors, Evan Jones and Bama Finocchi, are frustrated that they have not been supported in their effort by the Florida Public Service Commission.

The residents say they lost appliances and electronic equipment during what they described as a power surge and Progress Energy has referred to as "an unforeseen equipment failure" that brought three fire engines, a ladder truck, command vehicle, squad truck and rescue truck to their neighborhood in May.

When Progress Energy rejected their compensation claims, the Woodlawn neighbors complained to the PSC. In an Oct. 2 letter to Woolums, though, the commission said an inspection by its engineering staff "determined that there appeared to be no action that Progress Energy could have taken within reason" to have foreseen the problem.

The engineers recommended that Progress Energy remove vines and complete tree trimming in the area where the trouble occurred.

The PSC also said it could not make a ruling on damage claims. The matter is the responsibility of the courts, it said.

Woolums said he and his neighbors are considering joining with other unhappy Progress Energy customers to fight the utility. After an article about the Woodlawn residents appeared in the St. Petersburg Times, several readers called with similar stories.

Joyce Lakamp of Largo and her husband, Charles, said the utility declined to compensate them for $3,000 in damage.

"They couldn't care less about us, so my faith in them is very little," she said.

Joan Riordan, though, is feeling much more favorably toward Progress Energy. Shortly after the Woodlawn incident, smoke began filling her Seminole kitchen while she was having lunch with her daughter and grandchildren. Progress compensated her for the damage, Riordan said.

Meanwhile, Woolums said he and his neighbors have heard from a Progress Energy maintenance supervisor that the company is three years behind in maintenance.

Suzanne Grant, spokeswoman for Progress Energy, said that's untrue.

"We have an annual maintenance plan, and we are not behind on planned maintenance," she said.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2283.

Neighbors to fight for Progress Energy reimbursement 12/27/08 [Last modified: Saturday, December 27, 2008 3:31am]
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