Rodi and Bob Franco are still trying to get this straight: A utility pole in front of their house randomly fell over early Monday morning before the sun was even wide awake, their power went out — and now they have to pay $15,000 to get it turned back on.
Yeah: Not your average power outage — and certainly not one the couple, who is currently living in a hotel while electricians dig trenches in their front yard, expected to pay for themselves. The Francos are currently in a dispute with CenterPoint and AT&T over who is liable for this pole disaster — and why on Earth are they having to pay for it?
Rodi said that, early Monday, she and her husband called CenterPoint immediately (“because that's what you do when the power goes out,” she said). After the pole fell into the street, presumably because the wood had rotted underground, it yanked the electricity wires with it and completely disconnected the power from the Francos' individual home. To assure CenterPoint that she or her husband didn't just ram into the pole with their car, Rodi even tracked down an eyewitness walking his dog that morning who confirmed that the pole fell down out of nowhere.
By 6 p.m., CenterPoint had replaced the pole, and so Bob asked the CenterPoint representative, “Well, when is our power going to come back on?”
The power was not going to come back on, the rep told them, until they called an electrician to come put in new wires, and that's not CenterPoint's responsibility. Plus, the company told the Houston Press: CenterPoint doesn't own the actual pole — AT&T does — so this isn't CenterPoint's problem.
"The damage that this customer incurred from the falling AT&T pole was to electrical equipment that the customer owns and is responsible for maintaining it," CenterPoint said in a statement.
Rodi, a little mad but still believing it would be a quick fix, called several electricians for bids. “And then we realized, 'Oh my God, it's not a couple thousand dollars to fix,'” Rodi said. “It's $15,000 — and, 'Oh, by the way, we need to dig up the sidewalk and dig a trench through your entire property that is two feet deep and 135 feet long.'”
None of it made sense to Rodi and Bob. Their insurance wouldn't cover it, because the pole was not on their property and didn't even fall into their yard. CenterPoint couldn't even give them a temporary electricity hook-up, because the wires would have to run through the driveway, which constituted a hazard. And CenterPoint apparently wasn't even going to help pay for it, because as CenterPoint told us, the company is "prohibited" from working on "electric facilities owned by the customer."
And that's when Rodi and Bob became more than just a little mad.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
“I don't understand how a homeowner is supposed to know who owns their poles. And I don't know how a homeowner is supposed to know when their pole is rotting underground,” Rodi said. “It just seems very unfair that I am now responsible for $15,000 of electrical work.”
Rodi has since reached out to AT&T to ask if it will reimburse her and her husband, though she has not yet gotten a clear answer. An AT&T spokesman told us this in a statement: “We are investigating and will work with the homeowner and CenterPoint to understand what happened."
The Francos have already paid for the new wiring this week, though. Rodi said she simply didn't want to wait around in a hotel while a couple of utility companies “investigated” who was responsible for a deteriorated pole. She thinks, though, about what would've happened if she weren't able to pay.
Would her power ever come back on?