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5th Blackout Hits Government Center

August 15, 2000|MARGARET TALEV

The Ventura County Government Center experienced its fifth blackout of the summer Monday, with power going down at 3:30 p.m. and remaining off until just minutes before closing time at 5, officials said.

County officials and employees are growing increasingly frustrated this year with what until now has been an almost hassle-free deal with the electric company.

Since 1988, the county has saved about $4.3 million in an arrangement through which Southern California Edison customers get a 20% discount by agreeing to give up their power during times of peak demand. In all those years combined, there haven't been as many blackouts as this summer, said Tom Womack, assistant director of the General Services Agency.

Supervisor Frank Schillo has suggested the county consider dropping out of the program, but it is locked in until November under its agreement with Edison. At that time, the Board of Supervisors is expected to weigh the savings against the temporary frustrations and lost productivity that the outages bring.

Supervisors last week passed a policy calling on managers to remain at work and requiring other employees to use leave time if they want to take off when the power goes down.

Womack said few employees appeared to leave early Monday, although there wasn't much they could do for the public with many computers turned off and rooms darkened. Some computers, emergency lights and other essential services are powered by generator during the blackouts.

It's impossible to predict how many more episodes like this will pass before things cool down, Womack said. Edison typically gives the county only half an hour notice before a blackout. But Womack said residents with pressing business at the county center may want to come in the morning. When the power goes out, it's usually in the afternoon.

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