Confusion over bill payment results in lights out for IDOT maintenance yards

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TROY, IL (KPLR) - Fox 2 has learned Illinois Department of Transportation snowplow yards and rest areas in the St. Louis area were "in the dark" for hours Thursday morning after having their power shut off.

The power was back on by early afternoon after IDOT workers said two maintenance yards and a rest area went dark without warning around 10 a.m. People immediately thought the financially-strapped State of Illinois must not be paying its bills.

Within 24 hours of IDOT workers coming off of around the clock snow removal duty, the maintenance yards in Hamel and Troy, where they store salt and service the snowplows, went dark for about three hours. IDOT workers confirmed the Southwestern Illinois Electrical Cooperative shut off power to the yards from at the pole.

“That’s an essential service,” said Joyce Welch, who was traveling from Springfield, Illinois to St. Louis. “I don’t know why they would shut the lights off there. I realize the state’s hurting, still the safety is the more important thing.”

A rest area worker said a Southwestern Coop worker showed up at the eastbound rest area on Interstate 55 in Hamel to cut power, too, but the issue was apparently resolved just in the nick of time.

However, power to the westbound rest area was cut.

“I think rest stops are very necessary for people who are traveling, which I do,” said Claude Jacobs of Florissant, who stopped at the rest area en route to Springfield.

No one from Southwestern Coop would officially comment why it happened, though one official confirmed there was no mechanical issue. IDOT workers said the only reason the power company would show up and cuts the power was because no one paid the bill.

Jacobs was glad the lights were on when stopped to use the restroom.

“I’d have been out behind it (otherwise),” he said. “I stop here because I’m an old man. Being old there’s parts of my body that I have to use the restroom quite often – it’s ridiculous. There’s a lot of money floating around at the state.”

Fox 2 received word from an IDOT spokeswoman later Thursday afternoon that the power was turned off because of miscommunication over payments due. The issue was promptly resolved and the public should have noticed little, if any impact, she said.