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Accident leaves 96-year-old KCK woman in the dark, struggling to get electricity restored to home

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- After an accident knocked out the power to an elderly woman's home in KCK, she called the power company, but it turns out that she doesn't have the power to fix the problem.

"I pray every night that God tell me what to do. Tell me why you’re keeping me here, please tell me why," Mary Winchell said.

For three weeks, Winchell, 96, has been living without power after a truck damaged an electrical meter in her backyard.

"I didn’t think there was going to be any problems. I thought they could pick that old meter up and bring me a new meter, but that’s not the way it works," Winchell said.

Janice Witt, who has been helping Mary, said the Board of Public Utilities has put up several roadblocks in the process of turning her electricity back on.

"That BPU would take the meter off of the house and not notify anyone that this 96-year-old woman was in this house, alone, and without power," Witt said. "We were given specific instructions as to what to do. We needed to reconnect the riser, reconnect the box, have an electrician out and make sure that it’s safe and BPU would send someone out to hook the power back up."

Witt said those steps were followed, and when BPU came to the property on Monday they informed her they would not turn the power back on until the city signs off on the repairs that were completed.

"The electrician went in and checked out the fuse box and said everything was fine, a guy on Saturday did the same thing and said the same thing," Witt said. "That’s very frustrating, that’s very annoying to know that our leadership has no compassion and no empathy for the people that are paying their bill."

BPU denied FOX 4's request for an interview and issued the following statement:

"Board of Public Utilities staff visited a 96-year-old resident’s home to check on her utilities. The electricity at the woman’s house was off because a meter was removed for safety reasons.

According to David Mehlhaff, BPU spokesman, it will be necessary to have a certified electrician work on the house before the meter can be reattached.

He said BPU personnel stated that if the meter was reattached without the work by the electrician, it could be a fire hazard. Boxes inside the house will need to be replaced, he said.

Meters are the responsibility of the homeowners, he said. In this case, if someone else caused the damage, that other person could be responsible for replacing it."

Edwin Birch, the Public Information Officer for Kansas City Unified Government, released the following statement:

"After our Codes division visited the property of Ms. Mary Winchell, they, along with BPU, became aware that the house was not up to code for installation of a new meter to restore electrical power. In addition, staff also learned that there is another home located on the same property that she owns and has working utilities. Ms. Winchell has other living options. However, for some unknown reason, she chooses not to reside in her other home that has working utilities until the necessary repairs are made to the home not up to electrical code.

The Unified Government and BPU want to assist Ms. Winchell as much as possible. Like all of our homeowners whose electricity may not be up to code, Winchell’s safety is a top priority. We will be working with the Area Agency on Aging to see what services she may need until her power is restored and meets electrical safety code standards."