2018-05-13 / Insight

Utilities plan upgrades across county

810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com

Crews last year installed new utility poles along DeMille and McCormick in Lapeer. 
Photo by Jeff Hogan Crews last year installed new utility poles along DeMille and McCormick in Lapeer. Photo by Jeff Hogan LAPEER COUNTY — They’re not as disruptive as road projects with their orange and white barrels and detour signs, but Lapeer County’s utilities are gearing up for a busy summer.

DTE Energy, the state’s second largest utility, will be working on several projects in the county this year as part of its $4.2- billion investment in infrastructure improvements over the next five years in southeast Michigan. DTE spokesman RoNeisha Mullens said the utility serves 2.2 million people from Monroe to the tip of the Thumb.

DTE crews will be trimming trees along 300 miles of overhead power lines in the county. Mullens said, “Two-thirds of the time DTE Energy customers spend without power is due to tree damage.” This was evident in the May 4 windstorm that wreaked havoc with thousands of local residents who lost electricity, some for several days.

Mullens said crews will perform extensive tree trimming in the Lake Nepessing area where the utility will rebuild and convert a portion of a circuit that powers the area and install additional protective devices. She said the work will upgrade and improve the reliability of the circuit and support voltage during peak times.

She said DTE crews expect to replace 527 porcelain fuse carriers that have been known to crack due to weather with polymer ones. She noted that since 2016, DTE replaced 1,098 porcelain fuse carriers in the county.

Mullens said DTE will begin work on a loop scheme that will reduce outages by automatically switching customers onto an adjacent circuit when a fault is detected. The project is expected to reduce outage sizes, occurrences and duration. The utility will also install protective devices on circuits to help reduce the number of customers impacted when an outage occurs.

DTE engineers, said Mullens, will begin design work on a new substation to support load growth in the Almont area. “This new substation,” she said “will provide jumping (transfer of load between circuits) options for adjacent circuits and reduce the distance many customers are from a source (exposure). By reducing the exposure, we reduce the probability of an outage.” She added work will provide Almont with the capacity needed to support additional growth, while improving the utility reliability.

Later this month crews with Jackson-based Consumers Energy will start work on one of the utility’s Vintage Service Replacement Program. Consumers’ spokesman Debra Dodd said the utility will replace 189 older copper service lines between distribution lines in Lapeer and homes with new plastic service lines.

Dodd stressed, “The lines still function well. We just want to serve the customer the best we can.”

Bob Pero, Frontier Communication’s vice president for the Michigan Region, said eight years after the company took over Verizon’s landline business the telecommunications company is closing in on the last mile of upgrading the system for highspeed internet.

Pero said since 2010 Frontier has gone from not being able to provide broadband service to any of its customers in Lapeer County to being able to reach about 92-percent of its customers. Frontier provides phone service from Columbiaville across the northern part of the county through North Branch, south along M-53 to the county line and then back across the southern tier of townships to Metamora.

In 2016 Frontier was able to offer service to 3,500 customers in its service area and this summer the company plans to be able to provide service to an additional 1,000. Most of those are customers who live in lightly populated areas, said Pero.

Since coming to Lapeer County, Pero said, “We’ve replaced nearly 70 percent of the facilities with upgraded equipment.” He added, “We’re doing upgrades all the time,” but he also noted that while Frontier has been increasing its capacity, it’s customers have been increasing their demand.

He noted that while the average home has two broadband devices in 2010, that’s jumped to nine today. Pero said they’re finding everything from cell phones and tablets to refrigerators and crockpots tapping into homes’ Wifi.

Although he didn’t have a local number, Pero said statewide

Frontier expects to string 2 million feet of new fiber optic cable this year in Michigan.

“We constantly invest in our network to give customers the high-quality services they need to stay connected,” said Teresa Mask, spokesperson for AT&T Michigan.

Although she didn’t have any Lapeer County specific project for the coming year, she noted AT&T has made several upgrades in Lapeer County since 2016.

Among them were upgraded towers in Columbiaville and Elba Township from UTMS to 4G LTE. LTE (Long Term Evolution) can be as much as twice as fast as UTMS (Universal Mobile Telecommunication System), which is also known as 3G, for downloading data.

Mask said AT&T beefed up capacity on towers in Hadley Township and Lapeer, “essentially adding lanes to the highway” and added bandwidth on towers in Attica, Almont, Metamora and Imlay City.

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