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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 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.

Shirley Titus November 15, 2012 at 12:50 PM
I do hope something similar will be done in Bernards Township as well.
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) November 15, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Bernardsville mayor reports that power outages reported at less than 5 on Thursday morning.
Yeah Yeah November 15, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Bernards Township did a much better job than Bernardsville for keeping their residents up-to-date. For example, Bernardsville residents were told to look at the borough website for up-to-date info on the storm. The only info it had for quite a while was a scrolling "alert" that said Halloween was being rescheduled. Thanks, that helps a lot. Bernards Township provided info that helped make our lives easier, like what restaurants or stores were open, what streets were closed, etc. Bernardsville residents(like myself) should sign up for the Bernards Township email since they are much more useful than Mayor Honecker's phone updates.
Caroline Carpenter November 15, 2012 at 05:05 PM
It would be nice if Bedminster Twp would do this as well...
PB November 15, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Is the meeting this Wednesday, or the 28th which is the week after Thanksgiving?
Caroline Carpenter November 16, 2012 at 03:47 PM
I live in Bedminster and got more info from the Bernards Twp. Twitter feed than from my own mayor & twp. committee.
Carol Pena November 16, 2012 at 04:53 PM
While this meeting will give residents a chance to vent their frustrations, I am not sure this will be productive (I can see it just being a chance for people to yell at the JCP&L rep - and I am sure they already know people are upset). Before I get mad at JCP&L (which would be easy), I would like to know from an official, independent investigation whether JCP&L did everything they could to reasonably prepare for the expected storm severity. If they did everything reasonably possible to prepare, and the storm was just bigger or had more severe effects than anyone could have predicted, then we can't blame them. If, however, they didn't prepare well, then that is another story and they should take all the blame. I don't know if anyone is planning such an investigation, but I think it would be the right way to go.

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