Bernardsville Special Meeting Wed. for Comments on JCP&L
Public forum set for Wednesday, Nov. 28.
What do you think of JCP&L's response and follow-up to Superstorm Sandy?
The Borough Council wants to know and will pass along the public input along with its own assessment of the power company's performance during the weeks following the hurricane's arrival in the area on Oct. 29.
Residents can bring written comment or also speak publicly, Mayor Lee Honecker said this week. The comments will be taken down by a court reporter and a transcript prepared for submission of the input, he said.
The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at Bernards High School, 25 Olcott Ave., as previously set by the Borough Council. The meeting is scheduled to be held at the high school's Performing Arts Center.
The council head agreed to request that Jersey Central Power & Light's local representative, Stan Prater, attend the meeting.
Residents were encouraged to submit written comments before the meeting. The meeting is being moved to the PAC from town hall in anticipation of a large crowd.
Honecker said last week that the council hadn't decided yet whether the information would be filed as a whole with borough officials' own input on the power company, which is regulated by the state Board of Public Utilities. He said written comments can be submitted via the Bernardsville Borough website.
At the Nov. 13 Borough Council meeting, the mayor and council members, along with the public, offered a preview about JCP&L's performance in the borough, left through this week with more reported outages even than in some shore communities. Residents also said that dangerous wires and trees on wires remain.
For example, resident Margaret Kellogg said then that debris and wires had left Douglass Avenue "still like a war zone" that makes for dangerous driving.
She said that JCP&L's follow-up after last year's storms "wasn't great, either," and that a dead branch had been left lying across a wire for a year.
Officials said they believe some of the problems have been the result of prolonged neglect of the power infrastructure in the area.
"Many of the poles were insect ridden," said Borough Councilwoman Charlotte Foster. She described such poles as "accidents waiting to happen."
Borough Councilman Joe Rossi said that years ago, Jersey Central Power & Light, since purchased by First Energy Corp. in Ohio, maintained a staff of 150 and also equipment to serve the Central Jersey region. That staff has been cut to about one-fifth and the stockpiled equipment is gone, he said.
Such a situation — as well as JCP&L's failure to amass workers in the area even before the long-predicted storm — is dangerous, Rossi said. "It's dangerous for us."
"This stuff goes on for days and days and we are at risk," Rossi said. Even now, he said, "We are driving under wires."
As he had the first week after Sandy, Rossi noted that residents on some streets had been left trapped for days when the power company did not show up to move wires entangled with trees blocking those roads, and also would not authorize anyone else to clear those wires for removal.
Honecker also again mentioned that in some cases JCP&L had claimed to already have resolved power outages in some locations in the borough, only to have apparently mixed up the addresses with similar street names in neighboring Bernards Township.
Honecker said it had been difficult for a while to obtain reasonable estimates from JCP&L even when restorations might be expected, since he believed that no assessments of damage had been done for days.
The mayor added that the president of JCP&L had told him during a conference call that he was familiar with Bernardsville, and had friends in the borough. "If you had friends on Bernardsville mountain, they're not your friends anymore," Honecker observed.
The mayor did not that JCP&L had conducted a tree-trimming campaign last summer in the area. And borough council members, in response to questions from the audience, said that the cost would be prohibitive to place underground wires on streets with a combination of overhead wires and many trees.