Updated 3:30 p.m.
While Jersey Central Power & Light trucks and workers are in Short Hills, some 2,800 households in the township are still without power and many residents with electric lines down in on their property have yet to see or hear from anyone from the company.
“I saw a van here for the first time just this morning, but it was gone before I could get outside to talk to the guy,” said Lara Allen-Brett, whose property has had wires across it since the October snowstorm Saturday. ”We have called JCP&L five times and reported it but today they said the didn’t have a report of wires, just the power being out. We called them on Saturday when the wires were on fire. And they later when they were sparking.”
The Fire Department put out the fire and barricaded the street in front of her house, which, she said, was a good thing because every time a car rode over the wires, they would spark.
“It’s been scary,” she said. “Our kids can’t stay here. They’re staying with friends and neighbors.”
Branches broke a front window and were dangling from the wires until the Allen-Brett family hired an independent contractor to cut them down, she said.
Lines are still down everywhere throughout the Glenwood, Hartshorn and Deerfield school neighborhoods - and other neighborhoods as well - making the schools difficult to get to with across routes, but also in front of schools.
Today was the first time a JCP&L truck was seen on the street. The power worker from Central New Jersey said he was there only to assess the damage and let headquarters know where the worst problems exist so that they could send the right number of trucks and crews to the area.
While company officials are still "tweeting" on Twitter that they hope to have the majority power back on by Thursday night and everything back on by Friday, the worker, who did not give his name appeared dubious when asked whether the power that was true for Short Hills.
Many parents in town are frustrated that their children are missing so much school, but parents near the schools without power are frustrated that the district has not just gone ahead and canceled for the week so they could leave town.
Some residents, frustrated that they still have no power after already spending more than a week without power after Irene, say that knowing what the streets are like on the routes, they can't imagine how school could open this week at all without a massive push by the power company.
“I really don’t see how we can possibly be back in school tomorrow,” said Sarma Van Sant, who lives across from Glenwood and has wires in front of her house and hanging across the street. “You can’t have kids around these wires. You just can't do it.”
Millburn township officials have also been frustrated by the power company.
Township Committee Member Theodore Bourke, who was on a regional conference call with the company and other townships on Tuesday said it was the same thing over and over: Town officials would complain about service and nothing getting done and complain that they had not talked with a regional manager and company officials thanked them and said someone would get back to them.
Meanwhile, he, like many others, has been without power since Saturday and is staying out-of-town with relatives, coming back only to get his son to High School practices.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “I understand that this caused so much damage that it’s going to take awhile, but they need to be upfront and give us a plan. If it’s going to take a week; tell us it’s going to take a week. Tell us what you’re doing and what areas you’re working on first. I think people would be able to deal with it better if they knew the plan.”
Unlike some townships that have not heard from JCP&L managers, Millburn Mayor Sandra Haimoff has been in continual contact with managers, which she says is better than the blackout of communication they had with the township during Irene, but the information has not always been correct and she does not trust that they are doing what they say they are doing.
"At noon they told me Glenwood School had power and we sent the police over there to check it out and it hadn’t come back on," she said. "And it still hadn’t at 5:30."
In fact, the power in the Glenwood School area still was not on at noon today.
“I’m sick of playing Little House on the Prairie,” said Van Sant. “Yet, I have to say, I’m grateful for what we have because there are people worse off than we are.”
After Hurricane Irene, the Van Sants bought a small generator and they have a fireplace, so it’s not as cold as some of her neighbors, one of whom said she had opened the windows today to warm up the house.
“We looked into going to a hotel, but some don’t have power and the ones that do are full,” Van Sant said. "
Mayor Haimoff said the township is fed up with JCP&L and is going to have to look into whether it can legally change companies because of its response in Irene and now this, Haimoff said. In addition, she said, the upkeep on the power poles and lines is inadequate. The mayor and other town officials have already testified before the state Utilities Commission about the terrible response to power outages after Irene.
Residents have pointed out areas where poles are leaning or broken and say those conditions existed before the snowstorm and, in some cases, before Irene.
"JCP&L is inept; they're not keeping up with maintenance," Van Sant said. "We're very angry about this."
Said Allen-Brett, "I understand that JCPL is inundated, and I'm trying to be empathetic. But it's been four days and no one has come to fix it; even after we reported that the wires were down and on fire. It's very frustrating."
update, 3:30 p.m.: In restoration estimates released by Assemblyman Jon Brannick released information he received from JCP&L that said the company estimates that today they will power restore power to 815 customers in Short Hills and 14 in Millburn. Tomorrow, they estimate, 1,750 more customers in Short Hills will have power while another 37 in Millburn will get it. On Friday, according to company estimates, the last 69 people in Millburn and 340 people in Short Hills will get power.
Millburn leaders are cautiously optimistic but not banking anything the company tells them.
"They've given us a lot of misinformation," said Haimoff.