Power outage halts business

Several businesses in Main Street are up in arms and seeking answers from Powercor, after being forced to close their doors for several hours due to the power outage on Monday.

The outage lasted at least five hours and while some businesses chose to re-open their doors when power was finally restored, others deemed it a waste of time given the trade already lost throughout the day.

Powercor spokesman, Lyall Johnson, said homes and businesses were without power following three pole fires and others lost power due to a faulty underground cable.

A power pole fire occurred in Cypress Street at about 3.43am on Monday, while other premises were impacted by a pole fire at the corner of Cooper and Sloane streets at 3.53am.

Mr Johnson said more customers were without power due to a faulty underground cable in the Moonlight-cum-Magdala mine historic area, which caused a protection switch to trip.

"They were all back online by 1.41pm," Mr Johnson said.

Mr Johnson said pole fires were not unusual around this time of year, as light rain wet dry and dusty power line insulators.

However, the explanation has been little compensation for the many businesses in Main Street who lost trade.

Fisher's IGA Supermarket was forced to close its doors for five hours, which not only turned customers away, but resulted in staff needing to throw several items in the rubbish.

Store Manager Sandy Pyke said it was a disappointing outcome.

"We had to strip the fridges and threw what we needed to out," Mrs Pyke said.

"Financially, the outage had a big impact on us, because we had to destroy so much stock and also lost trade for most of the day."

Brian Hancock, from Stawell Amcal Pharmacy, said he had real concerns that power outages of this nature were far more common now.

He said he and his staff were forced to play catch up when the power was finally restored.

"We had customers with urgent needs and that made it very busy on Monday afternoon," he said.

"Some left their prescriptions and came back when the power was restored and that put our staff under a lot of pressure in the afternoon.

"Obviously others could come back Tuesday for less urgent needs, but even that put more pressure on our staff. We spent all our time catching up which was difficult both Monday and Tuesday."

Mr Hancock said there was no doubt the pharmacy lost front counter trade as well on non-essential items due to the outage.

He said given his and other businesses experienced a power outage about three weeks ago, this was very frustrating for staff and customers.

"What worries me most is if this is going to become a regular occurrence," he said.

"In the past, outages have lasted for a couple of hours, but we had no power here from when we opened at 8.30am, through to 1.30pm. That was very frustrating for us.

"I have heard that maintenance on poles by Powercor has been scaled down and this is very concerning, particularly as these outages could keep happening.

"I certainly hope not, but I am concerned if what I am hearing is true, that Powercor considers it cheaper to replace a pole once it is burnt out, than carrying out regular checks and maintenance, then we will see this more often."

Chris Waack from Waack's Bakery echoed the concerns about pole maintenance.

"Years ago when Powercor owned the poles, they would regularly wash dust off the insulators," he said.

"That's not done now that the company has been privatised.

"I have a real concern that if this practice continues, then the cost to Main Street businesses due to loss of trade, will be echoed three or four times a year."

Mr Waack contacted Powercor to ask how small businesses in Stawell who were impacted by the power outage, could claim compensation for the loss of trade.

"I was told by Powercor that they don't compensate small businesses for any losses, even if it is due to their inability to maintain power supply.

"This is something the government needs to take a close look at, because a lot of small businesses are already feeling a bit tight at the moment. If this sort of thing becomes a regular occurrence, then it could cost people their business."

Mr Waack said his staff threw out about 600 hot cross buns and 20 loaves of bread. The outage also had a flow on effect to his Ararat and Horsham businesses.

"I would say the outage cost our business in the thousands of dollars," Mr Waack said.

"Initially we were told the power would be back on at 8am so we kept staff here. Then we were told 1pm we decided to close the doors.

"The power did come back shortly after 1pm, but we had already thrown a lot out and had already missed out on the lunch trade, so it really did have a big impact."

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