“The difficulty is that we do not have street by street or neighborhood restoration dates from JCP&L. All municipalities are having the same concern of getting reliable information on estimated restoration times for streets and neighborhoods. JCP&L is unwillingly to provide to us or any municipality at this time, the street level detail.
In East Hanover, Mayor Joseph Pannullo had expressed frustration early on.
“JCP&L does not have the competence to run an electric utility,” he said Friday, four days after the storm. “The key is transparency. Tell me what you know. I can never get a straight answer from JCP&L. We were supposed to have a conference call with them. I had all my people gathered. We were ready. Then JCP&L cancels it at the last minute. That’s no way to run a utility.”
Washington Township Mayor Ken Short said the repair efforts and communication from the utility were “terrible” and that JCP&L’s online power outage map frequently provided “inaccurate or erroneous data.” Short said he sent several emails, text messages and phone calls to JCP&L during the course of the cleanup efforts and that it took 36 hours before he received a return phone call from JCP&L.
“This is the worse disconnect I’ve ever seen as far as relating information to the public,” Short said. “It’s terrible. JCP&L said we’d have 1,750 homes up by Sunday night. We had zero. I want them to tell me what’s really happening but the problem is they don’t know. They really don’t know.”
Mayor William Budesheim is not happy with Jersey Central Power & Light’s (JCP&L) response to Hurricane Sandy in Riverdale.
At the Nov. 5 meeting of the governing body, the mayor said he wants to report the power company to the Board of Public Utilities.
That evening two neighborhoods – Stoneleigh and Hartung – remained without power along with a few homes scattered throughout the borough.
The mayor said the residents have been calling continuously, and he is putting together a file because no matter who calls they all have been getting different answers.
“The latest update showed we had about 600 homes without power, but what we figured, we had about 130. They keep pushing back the date when they expect to have power. They said yesterday 80 homes had power restored; we didn’t have a single one. And 167 were supposed to be restored today; we didn’t have a single one. It’s been frustrating,” said Budesheim.
“All the residents ask is, ‘Just let us know. Give us a date – if it’s a week or two weeks,’ so they can make plans. But every day it’s another day and that’s extremely unfair. It’s unjust,” he added.
Somerset County Freeholder Mark Caliguire characterized JCP&L’s response to Hurricane Sandy in the northern part of the county as “abysmal” and blasted the utility company for removing its representative from the county’s Emergency Operations Center.
There are approximately 12,230 homes still without power in JCP&L’s Somerset County coverage area, which includes about 37,300 customers in Bernards, Bernardsville, Bedminster, Branchburg, Bridgewater, Far Hills, Green Brook, Hillsborough, Peapack-Gladstone, Warren and Watchung.
“Bernards Township is in a crisis situation as a result of JCP&L’s incredibly poor response to a storm that occurred over a week ago,” said Freeholder Caliguire, county public health and safety liaison. “We’ve been told there are still seven landlocked areas in Bernards Township, trapping dozens of homes and hundreds of men, women and children. These homes are completely inaccessible by fire trucks and ambulances. This is a tragedy waiting to happen.”
“On top of its poor on-the-ground response, JCP&L pulled its representative out of the county Emergency Operations Center,” Freeholder Caliguire said. “This shows a disturbing disregard for the safety of our residents.“
[Hunterdon] County emergency management Director Brayden Fahey worries that roads in Clinton, Tewksbury, Raritan and Holland townships remain blocked by trees, poles and wires that have been down for eight or nine days, he said. The predicted snow cover could put county first responders in danger, he said.
Fahey said that the JCP&L representative told him earlier today that they’re continuing to focus on restoration. Snow won’t stop them, Fahey was told, but high winds may.
That frustrated Fahey.
“I issued a plea to them,” Fahey said. “It’s going to get cold. Circumstances will summon first responders to the street.” Now those streets, trees and wires could be covered by as much as four inches of snow, he said. “It’s unacceptable.”
Montville officials have begun to lose faith in estimates for power restoration to homes throughout the township from JCP&L.
“The information that we do have from JCP&L is grossly inaccurate,” Mayor Tim Braden said Tuesday. “Their estimate was they were going to put on 1,000 homes between Sunday and Monday and, from our count, we had zero homes come on.”
Reading these stories and others, it’s clear that none of these officials have a problem with the actual crews on the ground. Nor do they want those crews to be working in dangerous conditions. And everyone understands this weather is unprecedented.
No, the problem, over and over again, is that JCP&L appears to have no capacity to communicate useful information to its customers or government officials. As a JCP&L customer sitting in the dark for 10 days with no reliable estimate of when I will be restored, I can tell you that I appreciate the harsh tone these officials are taking with the utility. And I very much doubt I am alone.
I’ll make my first prediction of the state-wide 2013 election cycle right now: JCP&L is going to be an issue. Whoever beats them up the most may well be the winner in local-, county-, and state-level elections.
It’s not going to be a pleasant year for what is quickly becoming “New Jersey’s Most-Hated company!” ®