Free Press sports writers Dave Birkett and Carlos Monarrez discuss what they saw from Matthew Stafford in Thursday’s indoor practice, and whether an injured Stafford is a better option than Jake Rudock at Tampa. Recorded Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017.
Detroit Free Press

Responding to the 2016 electrocution of a Detroit pre-teen, the Michigan Public Service Commission called Thursday for a “comprehensive, long-term plan” on how the city and DTE can work together to remove miles of out-of-service power lines in the city. 

In September 2016 12-year-old K’brianna Griffin was killed in a friend’s yard after coming into contact with a fallen, inactive city power line that became “energized” after hitting a live DTE Energy wire. 

“The little girl was back there just frying, just frying, just frying and she stayed out there for about a half an hour until they came and turned the power off and stuff,” Arnitha Brown, the grandmother of Griffin’s friend, whose house the incident occurred at, told the Free Press through tears last year. “The wire was laying across her.”

While the city stopped using multiple electricity lines two decades ago,  the lines were never taken down because it was believed that since they were inactive they posed no danger, Mayor Mike Duggan told the Detroit Free Press last year. 

The untimely death of Griffin, however, prompted a heightened focus on the issue of obsolete power lines in Detroit, the dangers they could pose and most specifically gaps in communication between DTE, who now run the power lines, and the city, who own the inactive lines. 

A subsequent investigation into the accident revealed that the fallen line had been flagged by a DTE employee two-months before the adolescent’s death. Neighbors and the city were informed of the downed line, however, the city never took steps to remove it. 

Electric power substation (Photo: Getty Images)

In December 2016 MPSC issued a report stating that it was the city’s responsibility to remove abandoned wires. The city, however, pushed back saying it would cost over $35 million to remove the 900 miles of overhead wires that once powered numerous neighborhood street lights. 

“Only the future removal of the arc wire will entirely eliminate the safety threat. … Without a city of Detroit formal commitment, the possibility exists that the status quo could return,” a Public Service Commission staff member told the Associated Press in December 2016. 

After a year of the issue remaining unresolved on Wednesday MPSC reiterated their previous call for action, pushing for the city’s Public Lighting Department and DTE to come together and create a meaningful plan for removal. The wiring report is due to the Commission by March 30, 2018. Cost projections, prioritization of work, and how line removal fits into DTE’s grid modernizations efforts are all requisites of the report. The assessment is also asked to include how much arc wire remains, who owns the lines and the poles to which they’re attached, and accessibility to the wires.

According to John Prymack from the Public Lighting Department, the city has been working with DTE for the past several months and have removed, thus far, 140,000 feet of unused arc wire.

“We will continue to work closely with DTE to meet the MPSC’s March 30th deadline for a plan for DTE to identify and remove the remaining lines,” said Prymack. 

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