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Residents, Town Officials Frustrated After Irene

JCP&L has not been releasing information, town officials claim

Edited at 10:56 a.m. See addendum below.

As post-hurricane Millburn endures a fourth day of spotty electricity and contaminated water or none at all, some residents are frustrated and filled with questions.

They fill the comment sections of this Patch site: Where are the work crews from Jersey Central Power and Light? When is the water coming back? When will down trees be cleared?

Basically, when will it be normal again?

Town officials have been telling residents that they too are at the mercy of the utility companies, particularly JCP&L, and assuring them that they are doing everything possible to alleviate the mess left by Hurricane Irene.

"I can totally understand people's patience getting frayed," Mayor Sandy Haimoff said. "We are all in same boat. The only way to get through this is to row together."

"Their frustration is our frustration," said Tim Gordon, township business administrator.

Haimoff said their relations with New Jersey American Water have been relatively good. NJAW told towns officials that hopefully water could be restored as soon as Friday.

However, the town's dealings with JCP&L have been difficult, Haimoff said.

"We have requested at the outset of the storm for them to give us locations where they have taken care of power and trees," Gordon said. "They are not forthcoming with the information. We have not been able to get information."

Gordon explained JCP&L needs to de-energize wires that have become tangled up with tree limbs and then the town can move in and clear the debris. Unfortunately, he said, JCP&L has not given them information on where they have been through for repairs and where down trees are located.

As an example, Gordon said a dead end street in town had a tree with down wires blocking the way. The town kept on calling JCP&L to take care of it, but JCP&L never informed Millburn when they restored power in the area.

With the tree still an obstacle, residents took matters into their own hands and started cutting it up, Gordon said.

"It made us look bad," Gordon said.

Haimoff said the town has made numerous phone calls to JCP&L and even Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. tried to reach out to them on their behalf. The town also sent a strongly-worded letter to the utility company, she said.

Haimoff said the town has been lobbying its state representatives to put pressure on the utility companies.

Meanwhile, Haimoff said, the town has been airing out as much information as possible in a timely manner either via robo calls or press releases through Lt. Peter Eakley, spokesman for the Millburn Police Department and the Millburn Office of Emergency Management. Those press releases are also published on the town website.

Haimoff said she has also been touring South Mountain and other areas.

Andrew Fingerman, a resident on Greenwood Drive in South Mountain, wrote in an email:

"I personally walked the South Mountain neighborhood today (Wednesday) and spoke to dozens of homeowners who estimate home damages and lost property between $30,000 and $100,000 each...house after house with huge piles of debris and their lost personal belongings getting carted away in dump trucks. The weight of the loss and financial hardship is both staggering and heartbreaking. It is critically important to us that we see more action from our local officials to demonstrate they understand the severity of our losses and the impact on our lives. Going forward, we will demand clear answers about why this happened and what will be done to prevent it in the future."

Mark Schulman, a resident in the South Mountian area, said he has not heard from the town at all except through robo calls. He and his family had called the fire department earlier this week so they could pump out eight feet of water from the basement of their Ridgewood Road home. Wedding presents, toys, thousands of CDs, and food were ruined in the deluge.

But the fire department did not call back until Wednesday after Schulman had the basement pumped himself.

"I am frustrated with it all," he said.

But he and his wife Sarah said they understood the town and everybody else were overwhelmed.

"I can't blame anybody in particular. I guess we expected a quicker response," he said.

Berylin Bosselman, who lives on Greenwood in the South Mountain area, said she saw a JCP&L van Wednesday morning and thought the man would get out of the vehicle and start repairs. He didn't, leaving her upset.

It was just another frustrating experience in a so far frustrating week for her and her family, she said.

"We don't know anything. We have no information," she said about when power and water will be restored.

They had to dump items with sentimental value as well because their basement flooded, she said.

Bosselman said she thought the area was not supposed to flood again after walls were installed to prevent the type of flooding that happened after Hurricane Floyd.

"It (the walls) was obviously not high enough," she said.

Addendum:

Millburn/Short Hills Patch did reach out to JCP&L before the article was published, but never got a reply back.

KLF September 01, 2011 at 10:42 PM
I agree about the town government. They have not displayed any leadership. Today's letter that they posted on Patch is too little too late. It feels like they are hopelessly out of date in their communication methods.
fran kaye September 01, 2011 at 10:42 PM
I lived in SH around 1990s and I still see the same problem with the utility company. We used to get power outages all the time so one time it happened I took my car where the pole outage was and sat there and watched the utility guy sit in his truck for hours and then he went up to the box and flipped a switch and came down and drove away. I think there is some discrimination going on in that town.
Amy lambert September 02, 2011 at 12:38 AM
Flooding and sewage back up has been occurring in the S. Mountain section since at least the 1970's (with residents needing row boats for evacuation). Over time, the problem seems to be worsening, even after the "fix" following Floyd. Is there any record of flooding pre dating the 1970's? Note that the houses on Ridgewood Rd. along the bank of the Rahway river were built largely in the early 1960's, so perhaps flooding wasn't as much of an issue before this area was developed. Also, I wonder how the development of areas upstream is impacting on the situation. Covering more and more ground with asphalt and removing trees is probably not helping the situation. Anyone aware of any local environmental studies looking into this?
SHMill September 02, 2011 at 01:47 AM
If there is one thing I have learned through this whole ordeal it is that the squeaky wheel truly gets the grease. I was amazed at how many people in my own neighborhood had not called the power company when their power went out, mistakenly assuming that the power company was aware of the problem. This is clearly standard operating procedure for all utilities and would have been helpful for our town government to do a better job in informing the community to keep calling JCP&L to bug them, something we all feel we shouldn't have to do in light of the seriousness of the problems across the state. I don't know about you, but I have learned my lesson...CALL, CALL, CALL and tell my neighbors to do the same. It's unfortunate, but count on us not being so courteous the next time, JCP&L. Also, our town's website was ridiculously lacking in basic information, ie road closures just being provided today is a joke. Obviously the street closures are changing on a minute by minute basis, but someone should have been providing that information on the website days ago. Check out Livingston's website; it's all been there from the second day, including an enormous warning to boil and conserve water. And we should have all been told to turn off sprinklers from day one as well, something that SHOULD have been obvious to ALL residents and businesses but clearly was not.
SHMill September 02, 2011 at 01:51 AM
A possibility for future info dissemination is a google group. I relied on and was better served by being a member of Workmom than from the news media or my town government.
MominSH September 02, 2011 at 01:53 AM
Charles, Chatham Road is now open, but there is still no power for Glenwood or the Taylor Road area. :(
SHMill September 02, 2011 at 01:54 AM
Check out the article on the Springfield Patch titled, "Township to Hold Briefing for Hurricane Victims at Sarah Bailey Tomorrow".
SHMill September 02, 2011 at 02:12 AM
Here's what I'd like to see from our town representatives as a way of addressing JCPL: http://manasquan.patch.com/articles/manasquan-blasts-jcpl. Even though Manasquan's issues sound worse than M-SH, again, "squeaky wheel" yields outcome. Mayor Haimoff, take note of what others are doing and please do the same.
Sharon Adarlo September 02, 2011 at 12:14 PM
Wow Manasquan has it really bad.
P_R_PC September 02, 2011 at 12:18 PM
It's time to clean up this town....not from Irene...the true mess is in town hall - lack of leadership, poor management of the DMDA and numerous other issues they fail to resolve. This will be an interesting 18 months. We will not forget when we go to the polls or when the requests come in for campaign donations or other support.  Thank you Irene for helping others see what many have known for a long time...our town is mismanaged.
rick barrack September 02, 2011 at 12:27 PM
Lets include the BOE in this as well. A Board that can't get out of its own way with pompous decisions, personal power agendas and egomaniac leadership. As the old saying goes "You'll never work in this town again".
Really People September 02, 2011 at 12:28 PM
If you have read the TC's joke of a letter, read and comment here: http://millburn.patch.com/articles/letter-from-township-committee-and-road-closures-list
Cindy September 02, 2011 at 12:55 PM
The township has failed to fight for us and if asked for a grade, I would give it an 'F'. Now do we have freedom to switch our power company? I don't want to stay in the darkness so long and feel totally neglected next time sth happens.
Carolyn Most September 02, 2011 at 01:02 PM
If folks are really interested in "cleaning up" the township committee and the BOE, please remember that you have to be engaged. Residents speak out when there is a major issue but then lose interest quickly. The best way to express outrage, concern disappointment, etc is to participate in local government by running for office, supporting candidates that run to enact good policy - not to gain power or prestige, and showing up to vote. Only 1800 voters participated in the last BOE election. I don't have the numbers for the last Town Council election. But in a town of 20,000+ with more than 7000 households with kids under 18, the BOE election participation is abysmal. Not sure who said it but people get the government they deserve. Time for those with better ideas to step up.
MarkDS September 02, 2011 at 01:08 PM
For those talking about alternative providers that is for the ELECTRICITY only. You have no choice but JCPL for your wires. So regardless of who your electricity supplier is you will not change your situation regarding power outages.
Sharon Adarlo September 02, 2011 at 01:33 PM
Those are some great questions Amy.
Sharon Adarlo September 02, 2011 at 01:33 PM
Hmm, their water source may be coming from a different water plant.
Palmetto_Tarheel September 02, 2011 at 01:36 PM
You're absolutely right about the distinction between power lines and power generation. That said, going forward I'd rather pay Gateway or Constellation for that service as a small means of protest in response to JCP&L's lack of proactive communication with its customers.
KLF September 02, 2011 at 02:21 PM
And Oval Rd. and Haran Circle were built around that time. I wouldn't be surprised if that development changed everything.
MominSH September 02, 2011 at 02:52 PM
Workmom was and is absolutely the best source of information.
M.Moore September 02, 2011 at 03:00 PM
If you have access to it... if you are a SAHM, you don't. Another example of the mommy wars....
philippe September 02, 2011 at 04:02 PM
A couple of point. I read yesterday the town "leadership" letter posted on Millburn Township website praising the crisis team about what a wonderful job they have done. Who are they kidding? I am certain the police and fire department did a decent job. But their is nothing extraordinary about their actions. That is part of their job responsibilities. The town elected officials telling us how wonderful job they have done is pompous and arrogant they were a no show in communicating to us what the action was in restoring electricity shame on them. With regard to JCP&L I agree with the comments made by others we should all consider switching our energy supplier to others i.e. constelation to make a point accross about their inabilities. I understand that JCP&L/First Energy will continue maintaining the wire but why should we give them our business on the generation. I did post an email to them yesterday regarding my dissatisfaction with the poor communication on their website and frankly do not expect to hear back from them.
Ike September 02, 2011 at 04:21 PM
I actually signed up with Verde Energy yesterday. It's a small impact as JCP&L is regulated to earn a return on their capital....but if enough people switch over time they'll have few assets in the fleet....a thousand pinpricks add up.
Lynda September 03, 2011 at 04:41 AM
i am on the union side of "the wall" no one is talking about our devastation. i agree with a comment by a millburn citizen. the wall needs to be higher and equal of height on both sides of the county to channel the water out to safety, not in our homes
Lynda September 03, 2011 at 04:44 AM
also, if any one cares to know, because i don't know if this affects the millburn citizens, but the pump part of the millions of dollar project designed by army engineers and fema was never maintenanced and never went off the evening. debris kept it from firing up, which caused a back up on our side of the wall early on in the night have the rahway to have no place to go once it went over the wall but into our houses
P_R_PC September 03, 2011 at 12:18 PM
Headline "MILLBURN EXPERIENCES POWER LOSS" - town officials lose power against JCPL - town residents preapre for clean up of town hall. Feels like Irene's impact will be felt well past her wind and rain....well into 2011 and 2012 elections. Action. Not reaction.
rick barrack September 05, 2011 at 01:01 AM
Carolyn, appreciate the kick in the pants to get us to attend these meetings. But with all do respect, I believe the last time i attended one of those carnival events and stood up at the mike to express an opinion, Mr. Bumberg told everyone to sit down and shutup. Run for office, thanks but no thanks, I just prefer to consider my tax payments as an admission ticket to watch the Circus.....Pass the popcorn.
Carolyn Most September 06, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Rick, I hear you, but the "CIrcus", as you call it, has gotten to the point where it is no longer just amusing but is actually detrimental to the quality of our town and our school district. This ultimately impacts everyone as it affects our quality of life and our kids education, but also our property values and the ability of residents to sell their homes. When Millburn's flooding and recovery issues make CNN news, that is not good PR for our town. Given that many in this community tend to never look beyond NJ Monthly Magazine school rankings, have a look at the Community rankings they published last month - more comprehensive then just schools - http://njmonthly.com/articles/towns_and_schools/the-top-20-towns-2011.html Millburn is 51 in the state, behind Chatham, Florham Park, Berkeley Heights, Bernardsville, New Providence, etc. I understand many do not have the time or patience to get directly involved, but our voter turnout is so low, about 15% for the BOE elections, and it is a relatively small commitment to become informed and vote.
Nantz September 06, 2011 at 05:49 PM
All of you think you are entitled to "the best" when in fact the reality is that it takes time for these things to heal. I am sorry that Millburn made CNN, but it was an Act of Mother Nature that caused this. What all of you snobs don't understand that it takes time for things to be cleaned up and for things to come back to normal. Look at Katrina, Rita, and Ike. This is reality people. Living in a bubble in Short Hills doesn't help you much, but just because you make more money than the average Joe doesn't mean you are entitled to quicker natural disaster relief. Get a grip people.
Palmetto_Tarheel September 07, 2011 at 12:58 AM
Nantz--unfortunately, "acts of mother nature" do not discriminate. Many of my good friends and neighbors, none of whom inherited their money and all of whom work very hard for a living, suffered massive damage and loss thanks to the storm. Most of these folks will not be reimbursed by their insurance companies for one of two reasons: 1) we are not considered a flood zone; 2) it was a named hurricane and that rider gives the insurance companies an "out" in many policies. The frustrations we all felt because of a lack of responsiveness, preparation and perhaps accountability on behalf of the utilities and public offcials only served to magnify what financial hardship this storm will mean to many families in Millburn-Short Hills. I sincerely hope you are not one of our neighbors in this town--I have been reassured of the general good heartedness I witnessed in town, from neighbors bringing homebound neighbors water and food, to others helping to bail out flooded basements, to children taking cookies and water to the JCP&L crews as they worked to restore power. In the future, before throwing around labels like "snobs," I suggest you visit our neighborhood, see how we live, and survey the damage.

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