Utility board gathering community feedback 

SPRINGFIELD – It has now been just over a month since an ice storm welcomed Lane County into the new year, and some community members are hoping that sharing their stories will allow for positive change to be made before Springfield encounters another natural disaster.

Springfield Utility Board (SUB) held a public listening session Feb. 6 so the community could provide input relating to the recent ice storm.

“All of this is part of the process on how we get better internally and externally,” said Mark Molina, chair of the SUB board.

First to speak was Jason Prophet who lives on Quarry Rd just below Springfield’s water tower. He told the board about a tree, which Prophet had been watching slowly lean uphill toward the power line over the last decade, that took down the lines just below his driveway. He emphasized how it still hadn’t been cleaned up.

“Cut the branches off; that’s what they need to do,” Prophet said. “A $1,000 tree did $10,000 worth of damage.”

Jason Prophet

On Feb. 9, three days after Prophet spoke at the listening session, SUB employees took care of the pole and lines the fallen tree knocked down as well as also removing the fallen tree. Having waited 25 days for assistance, Prophet emphasized that SUB needs to prioritize trimming trees and pursuing preventative maintenance.

“I think part of the problem is that these little corners of the city get forgotten about,” he said.

About 10 other Springfield community members took the floor to relay how SUB could improve through personal anecdotes, although there were easily at least 50 people in attendance either in-person or virtually. Inconsistent, ineffective communication was a major topic of concern.

Someone under the screen name A. Walker said SUB should consider Springfield’s elderly population more in the future, adding that her father’s dementia has worsened since the storm. They said many elderly people who don’t use Facebook were left completely in the dark – both with lost power and no information. A. Walker compared SUB’s communication difficulties to Emerald People’s Utility District (EPUD)’s daily and nightly updates, praising EPUD while encouraging SUB to utilize similar practices.

“We’re finding that we need to make adjustments in how we communicate to our customers, and explaining what our process is, and explaining what they can expect – even in a situation where there’s a lot of unexpected answers,” said SUB general manager Jeff Nelson.

Another audience member, Craig Murphy, recommended SUB use a text service for important updates moving forward. He added that SUB should steer clear from requiring the community to use QR codes or click on links during emergencies because gaining information about the boil water notice proved difficult for people who didn’t have power.

SUB will provide an overview of its emergency response – diving into its newly formulated action plan and addressing all public comments – at its March board meeting.


SUB said the most recent storms – the three within the last decade in 2014, 2016, and 2019 – typically had a one-day damage period, while this ice storm had a four-day damage period. SUB saw its first outages on Jan. 13 and gave the all-clear on Jan. 28, meaning the restoration piece was completed.

About half of Springfield’s houses and businesses lost power at one point. SUB estimated this means about 15,000 meters were out during that time. The only time something similar has been documented was when about the same number of people were without power on the first day of the 2014 storm, which was previously the worst ice storm in SUB history, but most of them were back with power by day two.

More than 80 utility poles were destroyed. For context, this is Springfield’s fourth major storm in the last 10 years. In the prior three storms, a total of 10 poles were destroyed. Also, of SUB’s 38 feeders, there were a maximum of 17 out at once.



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