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Families Waiting for Wire Removals in Bernardsville, Bernards

Borough completely without power, dozens of homes blocked by downed wires, mayor says. Bernards also has some blocked homes.

Bernardsville Borough remained 100 percent without power as of about noon Saturday, and dozens of families were trapped behind trees entangled with power lines and electrical equipment that had not been removed or cleared for removal, by Jersey Central Power & Light, local officials said.

"We are falling through the cracks," Bernardsville Mayor Lee Honecker said at about 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Honecker and others said that all of the borough remained without power at that time. Reports are that power may not be returned for another week, and that Somerset Hills schools will be closed on Monday.

JCP&L spokesman says company is working on wire removals

JCP&L spokesman Ron Morano said at about 3 p.m. Saturday that that the company is in communication with Bernardsville officials.

"We have been working to restore and repair," he said at that time. "We understand. We are talking to them."

But he added that Hurricane Sandy had been responsible for more damage than ever before in JCP&L's turf.

Morano said the power company does rely on county emergency management offices to help sort out local issues, since the power company has been working on the larger infrastructures.

Morano stressed that it's JCP&L's job to certify that wires can be removed, and those wires should not be touched by others.

Bernards Township too had reported some residents on roads blocked by trees and wires.

Despite being on multiple conference calls with JCP&L, Honecker said he and the police chief, Kevin Valentine, have been shunted between Somerset County and to the Morris County operations headquarters for JCP&L, to which Bernardsville has been assigned.

In the ensuing confusion, Honecker said Bernardsville officials told JCP&L representatives — including the power company's president — that 40 to 60 households in a subdivision off Old Army Road remain trapped behind downed trees with wires that have not been addressed by the power company. One of the streets in that subdivision is Oak Place, he said.

Afterward, Honecker said JCP&L responded to Oak Ridge in Bernards Township.

A frustrated Honecker said he told JCP&L representatives, "Let's get this straight first — we are Bernardsville Borough, not Basking Ridge."

Many roads on Bernardsville mountain also cut off

Meanwhile, Bernardsville mountain also has multiple streets cut off, although Honecker did not give an estimate of how many homes remain affected.

As of shortly after 3 p.m., Valentine said, "We conducted a second damage assessment today in an attempt to further identify and pinpoint problem areas which are again being communicated to JCPL. No one is trapped at this point as many residents have opened roads and found ways around blockages to get out, and they have cleared JCPL debris on their own."

Valentine added the borough has also hired multiple tree contractors to do what they can to ensure emergency vehicle access throughout Bernardsville, but many low-hanging trees and wires still present a challange. "Stay strong, Bernardsville," he added.

As of 11:30 a.m., Honecker said, "[JCP&L] has done no work that I can tell."

Meanwhile, Honecker said borough emergency officials are aware of all streets and households that are landlocked.

Some of those homes are without a water supply since two-thirds of the borough is served by private wells that rely on electricity to work.

The borough already has been distributing drinkable water at the Bernardsville Library and Bernardsville Middle School. But Honecker said he doesn't know yet whether any water deliveries have been made to trapped households.

Don't touch downed wires

As did others, Honecker said until JCP&L removes or at least certifies wires as safe to remove, the trees can't be touched, even by borough employees.

However, the mayor said he has heard of the hazardous situation in which a group of residents have banded together to remove trees by themselves. Last week, a resident was injured trying to remove a tree and had to be rescued by the borough's recently purchased all-terrain vehicle.

Bernardsville Councilman Joe Rossi had complained to Patch about the situation on Thursday, and some residents have been posting comments asking for assistance.

Bernards High School's gymnasium is open as what reportedly is Somerset County's only shelter for those seeking refuge from Sandy's impact.

That shelter is being operated by the borough Office of Emergency Management, the American Red Cross and with the cooperation of the Somerset Hills regional school district.

"We will continue to operate because we are now the only shelter in Somerset County," said Janet George Murnick, shelter operations manager for the American Red Cross who also is certified as an emergency responder in Bernardsville.

Bernardsville power outages may last another week

She said volunteers at the shelter had been informed by officials that Bernardsville residents can expect to be without power for another week.

About 30 people from around the county were in the shelter on Friday night, and others were in the shelter's special needs section where those who rely on oxygen and other life-essential medical equipment were being supervised closely, and were attended by a nurse, Murnick said.

Borough residents also are dropping by during the day to schedule showers and to recharge batteries and electronics devices, the shelter's volunteers said.

Murnick also said that in an earlier briefing, OEM officials were told that Somerset Hills schools would be closed on Monday as power outages and road closures continue.

DJS November 03, 2012 at 08:22 PM
I ran around Bernards TWP today-- didn't see one JCP&L truck. Where are they?
Susan November 03, 2012 at 08:22 PM
The list they published last night said 97% of bernardsville will be on tomorrow nght. they are also claiming 35% are now up on their site. Which I think is impossible considering no trucks have been in town yet. https://www.firstenergycorp.com/content/customer/outages_help/Sandy/NJOutageCity.html
john Wallace November 03, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Come on Mayor...please make a stink, we are way down priority, that aint right.
Lisa Pessagno November 03, 2012 at 08:36 PM
nancy November 03, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Yes, it is on the JCPL website that 97% of bernardsville will be restored by Sunday. BS!
K Hermes November 03, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Out children need to go back to school. I wonder if the children of the JCP&L employees are back in school this week?
MBrook November 03, 2012 at 11:13 PM
JCP&L crew was on 202 today, not sure what they were doing. Didn't seem like they worked that much and then were gone before 5pm. What happened to working around the clock JCP&L?!?! What was the work for as we still haven't seen power on 202 or the houses near there? Come on Major & his office, all of us are not seeing any work done around here!
Judith Bickel November 03, 2012 at 11:39 PM
Hardscrabble road is just plain dangerous. It's the only way out for old army and old farm. It will take very little for someone to hit one of the trees overhanging the road. Does it take s serious injury or s fatality to have someone do something?!!!
LD November 04, 2012 at 12:46 AM
I think we should vote with our feet and ALL go from JCP&L to get our power. I have had enough of JCP&L! I have not seen a single truck around! PSE & G have been sending frequent updates, but not a peep from JCP&L! Kick them out!
Don Donald November 04, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Where is the national guard when they are needed? They will be available at polling stations, armed and ready,
Fred Kellogg November 04, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Douglass Avenue is a war zone as well. No JCP&L trucks have been seen in six days. This is far worse than last October, and we had no power for a week then. Something must be done about JCP&L's incompetence! FHK
Karen W. November 04, 2012 at 01:58 AM
As my neighbor posted above, hardscrabble road is an accident or several waiting to happen. I understand that the level of destruction is unprecedented, but it is unacceptable that five days into this we are still risking our lives to make necessary trips to find food and gas. Most if not all of the work on old farm, hardscrabble and old army was done by residents, including my husband, on Tuesday morning. Who would have thought that five full days later the situation would remain exactly the same?! The storm headed our way next week might just do us in if the trees precariously resting on wires, that we are driving under, finally fall and completely block our escape/provision route. An ambulance or fire truck could not get here at this point as the road is barely passable by car. I know we are lucky to have a home, etc. and I do count my blessings. I'm just feeling forgotten and discouraged by the lack of visible progress. We have not seen any trucks or assessor vehicles yet. At this point safe passage is as much a priority as having power restored.
Annette L. Steinhardt November 04, 2012 at 02:47 AM
I first want to thank the people who have come far & wide to help. My coworker is giving me a propane heater on monday. I have used the cell phone charging stations. But I am forced to stay in a freezing house. I will not leave my 2 cats, 2 birds & dog behind. How many other people are not warm because there isn't any place for them to go! Why doesn't jcpl offer heaters , generators etc... This cold temps will kill people & pets. When I feel To upset I think of staten island, waves of water in darkness, trying to hang on.
PB November 04, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Last year we waited for days for JCP&L to respond when trapped in our home by their wires. At least one of their people finally showed up at our door one time and a Borough employee another. We directed to a website to file a report once and an 800 number another. This storm, nothing. Last year polite and professional JCP&L people eventually showed up and dispatched a truck so we could get out of our homes. This time the area was "declared safe" but no one showed up from JCP&L. What's more, I spotted the likely JCP&L supervisor on our street driving a heavy duty pick-up with out of state plates and a CB antenna. He was abrasive, rude and disinterested. Last year JCP&L handled two storms terribly. This storm is a bigger disaster and so is JCP&L. The company should be fined and put on probation at a minimum. First Energy should be prohibited from supplying any additional services in NJ for some number of years. Maybe they will act more responsibly.
rginger@yahoo.com November 04, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Mayor where r you???
r quis November 04, 2012 at 03:24 AM
I couldn't be more upset about us being blatantly ignored by jcp&l. I live in an area of bernardsville with underground wires, we have never in the 18 years I've lived in this house lost power for more than 24 hours. Now I'm here with my 4 month old daughter and my house is so cold that she can't sleep and cries for hours at night. What do I have to do to get the mayor's attention? This is reprehensible. Shame on our city officials for not making a stink. I drive past christie's home in mendham every day on my way to work and have half a mind to take photos of the destruction in bville and tape them to his front door tomorrow. Enough is enough. Jcp&l needs to at the very least clear the roads so emergency vehicles can access homes. What happens when someone has a heart attack or a child suffers an I jury and ambulances can't get through. Will they pay attention then?
R V November 04, 2012 at 11:31 AM
I agree with r quis. We have underground wires too in our area have lived in the area for 16 years now. We never experienced outages this long when GPU Energy still had the power franchise for Bernards township. I think service quality deteriorated after JCP&L took over from GPU.
Faith Cap November 04, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Ewaller November 04, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Hardscrabble Road has only become somewhat passable due to the ingenuity and hardwork of the residents and property owners who live there. We were trapped for several days with trees and wires blocking the road in both directions. The owner of the home across from us showed up with a saw and starting working on a large tree to clear Hardscrabble in one direction. His tenant, along with his sons and my husband worked for hours cutting and clearing that side of the road. Have yet to see a utility truck to address the wire situation and only recently saw some township trucks cutting additional trees. What gives? Are with the forgotten township and why? I understand these are difficult times, but just like we planned As best we could with many days for this impending storm, it appears JCPL was once again grossly unprepared. Our officials need to take a stronger stance!
rescue November 04, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Isn't it interesting that the largely Republican towns remain without power but the largely Democratic towns have disproportionately been restored? Election ploy to disenfranchise the Republican contingent? Please delay the election so that all Americans have an equal ability to vote. Could you imagine if the Democratic areas were w/o power in great percentages than the Republican areas? They would blame it on Bush, Cheney and Halliburton.
ch November 04, 2012 at 01:32 PM
I agree! How is it that we haven't heard from him until Saturday?? Mayors of other towns have been posting updates and messages for their citizens. If he was aware of the dire situation of people STILL trapped in their homes, why isn't he raising the red flag loudly?? We are all aware of the magnitude of the power outage situation across the state, but a leader advocates, protects and disseminates information - none of which is happening in Bernardsville. Obviously he can't fix the power directly, but he can help his citizens manage this crisis through leadership. I will remember this at the next local election.
Guns and Religion November 04, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Dems would be bused to polling places if they had no power. Where are our buses? We could use a field trip.
R V November 04, 2012 at 01:49 PM
This is just to thank Linda Sadlouskos and the other folks at BR Patch for keeping us informed of what's going on in our area. Much appreciated.
brian mc fadden November 04, 2012 at 08:35 PM
PSEG brought trucks in the day before the storm. JCP&L, which is really in OHIO, probably made a money-saving decision not to do so, as it always does. And once again, Bernardsville will be the last town in the state to have power restored. JCP&L can't be blamed for being greedy, but it can be punished for it. Our local and County officials can be blamed for being inept, incompetent and lazy. This happens year after year, they make the same statements, and it's time they get tossed out of office. Then ask the Patch to help collect emails from all of us who want to see our service switched from JCP&L...and then petition Christie to act immediately to make it happen and to re-submit the measure that would have called for hefty fines for every day power wasn't restored. Right now, though, the Patch and the Bernardsville News have to publize the fact that area residents want to throw JCP&L out....a phone call from Linda at the Patch to JCP&L for a comment on the movement, or a call from a reporter at the newspaper, will sudddenly result in JCP&L trucks showing up.
J November 04, 2012 at 11:11 PM
I was recently given a ticket with 2 points on my license for driving around a tree that clearly had marks that other people drove around an no signage saying that I could not drive around it. On top of the $1700 dollars I spent on a generator, extra fuel costs, cost of me not working or at least working effectively (I am a contractor who needs fuel), cost of all of the food that went bad in my refrigerator, and probably other things I forgot, I will not accept the cost of a ticket and 2 points on my license the Wednesday after the hurricane as I was trying to get firewood to keep the house warm and all roads were blocked. This is outrageous, especially considering that I have seen MINIMAL EFFORT TO RESTORE POWER! This area isn't exactly the New Guinean Highlands, I feel like we have been totally overlooked. And Bernard's township police, let me just say that residents will be less likely to keep on a ridiculously over funded police force if you are going to over police us in difficult times.
Henry Jedziniak November 05, 2012 at 12:05 AM
As per JCP&L website 97% of Bville to be restored by noon Sunday Nov 4. Criminal to mislead. It's Sunday Nov 4 6:30pm does anyone in Bville have power? Please let me know. Heard the mayor was handing out coffee at the HS today, wish he was at JCP&L headquarters raising Hell. Seems like Childs, old farm and army rds, Shadowbrook, olde Towne court, mullens lane & others were forgotten by our mayor. Mr mayor you won the last election by what 6 votes ? Well guessing the above mentioned roads maybe 60-70 houses 2-3 votes per house hoping 120-210 will remember thiis the next election! Does anyone else feel our mayor has let us down? The measure of a leader is how he performs not when things are good but in the face of adversity. Lee Honecker and JCP&L PERFECT Together. Lets get the power on before before the pipes FREEZE!
Henry Jedziniak November 05, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Kudo's to ChiefValentine ,the Bville's police dept, the Bville road dept, the bville volunteer fire dept , first responders all are doing a yeoman's job. Glad all you guys are out there. HJ
J November 05, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Chief Valentine is cool he was my dare officer. But that lady who gave me my first ticket ever the day after the hurricane for driving around a tree in a non dangerous way and the only way out in order to get firewood for our house which was freezing- not cool. This is no time to be giving out stupid tickets. See you in court lady, if you show up.
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Jim Sullivan November 06, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Mayor McCheese, you better get out there and threaten some utility executives. Other towns have come back, while B-ville is doubling as Mogadieshu. It time to be unreasonable. Its time to be the sqeaky wheel. Cry FIRE, HAVOC & RACISM and get some results now!!!


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