The number of homes in St. Paul without power for a month has nearly quadrupled this year over last year at this time.

The situation is likely more fallout from the housing crisis and crummy economy, combined with a "normal" winter that racked up higher heating bills than those of recent years, utility and city officials say.

Because state law prohibits heat and power shutoffs until April 15, spring and summer always bring a wave of shutoffs. But this year is worse, according to figures supplied by Xcel Energy and St. Paul.

As of the first day of July, 397 homes had been cut off by Xcel for more than 30 days, compared with 105 last July 1.

Marion Pearson's house was one of the 397. And as she discovered, losing power in St. Paul can lead to a host of other headaches.

Like condemnation.

Pearson's husband of many years had moved out of their home at 1147 W. Central Ave., she said at a recent City Council meeting, where she testified in hopes of not getting kicked out by the city. Even though Pearson is listed as the sole owner of the house, her husband had always paid the Xcel bill, and it was in his name only.

She's an older woman, she told council members, and she hadn't thought about the power bill in years. When the electricity was shut off, it took her awhile to figure out the problem. Too long, it appears.

The city condemned her house and ordered her to vacate. After Pearson explained to council members what had happened and that she was

the process of working out a payment plan with the utility, she asked one question: "Will I be able to stay in my house?"

You can't live without electricity in St. Paul. It's illegal. Along with other essential "facilities" — fresh water and a few sinks, a toilet and sewage service, and a modern heat source — every residential dwelling in St. Paul must have electricity.

"This is not rural Minnesota where you can have a corncob stove in the back yard," Council President Kathy Lantry said in an interview. "People today want electricity, and they'll find a way to get it. It's our job to make sure it's safe."

If someone wants to live "off the grid," he can, as long as an inspector signs off on the set-up. But that's hardly the norm.

Extension cords strung between houses, poison-emitting gas stoves used to heat entire homes and other makeshift solutions are all-too-common sights for city inspectors when they discover someone has been living without utility service. Such fixes are dangerous, not only to the occupants but also their neighbors, city officials say.

Few other municipalities have enforcement as strict as St. Paul, and it's unclear how the economy is affecting utility customers elsewhere. Despite St. Paul's quadrupling shutoff rate, disconnections are actually down about 2.7 percent statewide, according to Xcel's figures. Utility officials suspect numerous shutoffs have been avoided so far by an influx of government funds, including the federal Low-Income Heating Assistance Program and the economic-stimulus tax-rebate checks.

Unlike other municipalities in Xcel's service, St. Paul receives weekly reports from the utility on homes where power has been shut off and not restored for 30 days. The city immediately sends out an inspector. If the home is occupied, the inspector condemns the place and tells the occupants to move out.

"It's sad," said Bob Kessler, who heads the city's Department of Safety and Inspections, whose inspectors inform people they can no longer live in their homes. "We try to find them a charity to help pay the bills or maybe a place to stay, but in this economy, there are some people who just can't pay."

If the inspector finds the home empty, he or she recommends it for the vacant-housing list.

Bonnie Mae Gear's place was empty. The vacancy notice was the first Gear knew there was a problem with the house she owns at 1301 E. Minnehaha Ave. She lives in Vadnais Heights and had rented the home to a woman for seven years.

The tenant moved out without telling Gear. But she did tell Xcel to kill the power.

Xcel generally doesn't track down the owner of a home before disconnecting electricity. Patrick Boland, manager of credit policy and compliance, said sorting through ownership papers can be complicated, especially in today's environment, where overseas financial institutions often have an interest.

"Generally, the resider is responsible for paying," Boland said.

So Gear was never told, until the city tracked her down to tell her the house was scheduled to be placed on the city's official vacancy list.

Being on the vacant-housing list in St. Paul kicks in a host of fees and building-code rules that would otherwise not be a problem for older homes built under different building codes. Among other small problems with Gear's house, inspectors said the porch needed railings and the door needed a new screen. Meanwhile, the place couldn't be rented, they said.

Gear pleaded her case before the City Council, showing photos of the clean interior, including new windows and carpeting and a refinished bathroom with a new toilet.

"Why did this have to happen?" she said.

In the end, technically, the system worked for both Gear and Pearson after they made the trip to City Hall and testified. Council members voted to give Pearson more time to work out a payment plan with Xcel, and Gear was afforded a chance for an immediate inspection to avoid being placed on the vacant-housing list.

Lantry, who presides over such council proceedings, said later it may have seemed obvious that Gear's home should not have been caught up in a bureaucratic machine designed to avoid unsafe or unsanitary housing, but the city must enforce its rules.

"We don't have the luxury of saying, 'This person's a reasonable person,' " Lantry said. "We can't show favoritism and subjectivity. This system is the only way the city can protect its residents and its property

St. Paul / Power shutoffs increase fourfold - TopixPlease start investigating city council meetings, Thank You to Reporter Dave Orrick for Parts of the Story

Agenda Wed.23July08
Well known activist Rick Cardenas
Item (2) must for public polcy have S&C in pdf format
2. Summons and Complaint in the matter of Rick Cardenas vs. the City of Saint Paul, et al.

The Citys Bizzare "MEMORIALIZING" likened to Torrens Titles to Realestate, without Quiet Title actions, Resolutions based on Fraud, Theft, Trespass, Treason "takings" without serving "public use" or Just Compensation Kelo
GREAT EX: found at and google search engines re: Nancy Lazaryan Exposing City St. Paul heinous violations
of Open Meeting Laws
26. Resolution - 08-796 - Memorializing City Council action taken July 2, 2008 denying the appeal and enforcement of first floor boarding stayed pending district Court direction on matter for property at 1033 Colne Street, per the recommendation of the Legislative Hearing Officer.(GS 3056475)

Nancy Lazaryan Save Our Homes, Advocates for All Vacant/Condemned/Demo

Affiant also has been victimized by the City and Lantry

The Public must be aware of the violations of the Open Meeting Laws, by Consent Agenda's of the City Council

Approx twice monthly the Assessment average $130 Thous for allegedy "Public Improvement"

To the Council of the City of St. Paul
The Valuation and Assessment Engineer hereby report s to the Council the
following as a statement of the expenditures necess arily incurred for and in
connection with the making of the above improvement , viz:
Total costs $138,255.38
Park Service Fee $
Code – Enforcement Service Fee $ 33,300.00
Real Estate Service Fee $ 14,045.00
Charge To
Net Assessment $185,600.38
Said Valuation and Assessment Engineer further reports that he has assessed and
levied the total amount as above ascertained, to-wi t: the sum of $185,600.38 upon
each and every lot, part or parcel of land deemed benefitted by the said improvement,
and in the case of each lot, part or parcel of land in accordance with the benefits
conferred thereon; that the said assessment has bee n completed, and that hereto
attached, identified by the signature of the said Valuation and Assessment Engineer,
and made a part hereof, is the said assessment as c ompleted by him, and which is£ŽÇ£Rü˲)

34. Resolution Approving Assessment - 08-804 - In the matter of the assessment of benefits, cost, and expenses for summary abatement (graffiti removal) on private properties from May 27 to June 17, 2008 [J0808P]; emergency boarding and securing, and boarding of vacant buildings during May 2008 [J0804B]; summary abatement (property cleanup) on private property from June 5 to June 27, 2008 [J0821A]; providing weekly garbage hauling services from June 18 to June 25, 2008 [J0821G], and setting date of public hearing for September 10, 2008.(GS 3056494)
Affiant in Good Faith based on published web site brings to the public as WHISTLEBLOWER