Wednesday, January 28, 2009

WWII Veteran Freezes To Death In Own Home

A limiter on Schur’s electric meter is being blamed for the man’s death. Now Bay City said it will notify customers before their power is shut off. Michigan’s Attorney General Mike Cox said Tuesday he would review the case. One local lawyer said the question remains: Who is accountable in the war veteran’s death? Czuprynski, a constitutional attorney, said the city could be liable. "I really think it's a disgusting situation and it's a shame that Bay City is put beneath this light." Czuprynski said Bay City could be liable for Schur's death. It was 32 degrees inside Schur's house when neighbors found his body. Bay City Electric Light and Power sent Schur a shutoff notice through the mail a few weeks ago. Then crews placed a shutoff notice on his front door. A few days later, Schur was found by neighbors. Bay City Electric Light and Power, which is owned by the city, said a limiter was placed on Schur’s electrical line. The device limits the power that reaches a home, and it blows out like a fuse if power consumption rises past a set level. The manager of Bay City said the limiter was tripped sometime between the time of installation and the discovery of the man's body. The city manager said city workers keep the limiter on a house for 10 days, then shut off power entirely if the homeowner hasn't paid utility bills or arranged to do so. reporters checked with Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison Tuesday to see if those companies use limiters. They said they do not. A Consumers spokeswoman said it has never used limiters. DTE said it doesn't use limiters because the Michigan Public Service Commission discourages use of the devices. Reporters also found out that Bay City isn't regulated by the state agency because it's a municipal company. It has a review board that sets its standards. Now it could be sued as a result of its policy on limiters and the fact that it didn't personally notify Schur about the device.Czuprynski said usually cities can't be sued, but that might not be the case in the death of the World War II veteran. Officials in central Michigan say the 93-year-old man who owed more than $1,000 in unpaid electric bills froze to death inside his home -- where the municipal power company had restricted his use of electricity. Neighbors and friends of Schur want answers as to how this could happen. “Now that we do know it was hypothermia, there’s a whole bunch of feelings that I’ve got going through me,” said Jim Herndon, a neighbor of Schur’s. “There’s anger, for the city and the electrical company.” Bay City officials said changes are on the way in an attempt to not let another instance like this happen again. An autopsy determined Schur died from hypothermia in the home he lived in for years. A medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Schur told reporters that Schur died a painful death due to the hypothermia. Dr. Kanu Varani has done hundreds of autopsies, and he said he’d never seen a person die of hypothermia indoors. A neighbor who lives across the street from Schur is angered that the city didn’t personally notify the elderly man about his utility situation. Schur’s neighbor, Herndon, said Schur had a utility bill on his kitchen table with a large amount of money clipped to it, with the intention of paying that bill. Right now the city said the situation is still under investigation. A memorial service for him will take place Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. at the Gephart Funeral Home in Bay City. Meanwhile, Bay City Electric Light and Power is raising rates. The move was approved Monday night and the retro-active rate hike will cost the average homeowner an extra $21 per year. The change will take effect this spring. The 3 percent increase comes on top of a 9 percent hike approved last summer.