Cold, Angry Residents Want Answers on Power

JCP&L has crews in the area, but work is slow going and many residents haven't seen them despite downed wires.

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 . ”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 and Deerfield - 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.”

, 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.

Alex November 02, 2011 at 11:12 PM
Apartment complex on Chatham and Woodland here - still no power. There's some activity going on down the Chatham (road is closed on Woodland rd, can't really go there in the dark), but I don't hold my breath. The situation with this complex is actually ridiculous: a single family home adjanced to the complex has power, people down the Woodland have power, gas station, pharmacy and USPS on Chatham all have power - we don't. I have Master's in Electrical Engineering and I don't understand how's this possible.
SHMill November 02, 2011 at 11:13 PM
Laura, thank you for including specific pictures of the damage. I would love to know where those DPW worker were working on trees as I haven't seen anyone from town when I have been out, although I am trying to stay off the roads when I can.
Jeffrey Slaff November 02, 2011 at 11:25 PM
I continue to be astonished at the criminally lackluster response to this disaster. Many streets appear to have never been touched (i was on Long Hill at 5pm today and there is still a huge tree across it near white oak ridge). This storm did not appear out of the blue at noon on Saturday, (4 days ago!) it was predicted days in advance and yet it seems as if our township officials and utilities were totally unprepared. Yes, i finally saw some JCP&L and Verizon crews working today, and yesterday I saw the Millburn guys taking a tree off someone's house. But the reaction seemed very slow to me. And from what I am reading here I am not alone.
Laura Griffin November 02, 2011 at 11:33 PM
I've added the location. It was on Hobart.
Shannon cross November 02, 2011 at 11:56 PM
No idea is this will end up being reality but I talked to one of the JCPL guys (seemed to be a supervisor) at Chatham Road and he indicated that they were promising power to the area to the west of that (north and south of Hobart and west of Taylor) by SATURDAY. We are hoping this is under promise and over deliver by based on the town's experience with JCPL, I'm not optimistic.
alison November 03, 2011 at 12:02 AM
Don't you all realize that it's just one truck that JCP&L drives around so that everyone will think they're actually doing something. We saw the truck in downtown Summit yesterday.
Millburn Parent November 03, 2011 at 12:38 AM
Just heard on the news from a mayor of a small town in Mercer County where 1/2 the town gets power from PSE&G and the other half from JCP&L. After Irene, the mayor has begun figuring out the process to get rid of JCP&L. According to his account, after Irene, PSE&G had power restored in several hours whereas JCP&L took several days. I guess having a comparison shows how things can be done.
KLF November 03, 2011 at 01:14 AM
Millburn Parent November 03, 2011 at 01:57 AM
Time for some fresh blood in the township committee. Haimoff and McDermott collectively have served the town for more years than many of us have been alive. When there has been a need for action - like twice in the past 3 months we have gotten none. These are new times and we need new people.
SusieQ November 03, 2011 at 01:57 AM
Perhaps you should get on a horse and ride to a remedial reading class to learn reading comprehension. My comment was in response to the statement quoted at the beginning of my post, which indicated that parents were waiting for school to be cancelled for the whole week so they could leave town to stay where they could have heat and lights. In addition, the article indicates that others have said that it is NOT safe to stay in certain areas of town: "Lara Allen-Brett, whose property has had wires across it... 'It’s been scary,” she said. “Our kids can’t stay here. They’re staying with friends and neighbors.'" Those children may be staying in town or far away, we don't know; but other parents have apparently shared the sentiment with Laura Griffin that they would leave town if they knew school would not be in session all week - obviously those families do not have power in their homes and feel it would be in their children's best interest to leave, but for the question of school. The point of my comment was that no one should use school as a reason to stay if they felt they would be better off elsewhere, that is all.
MarkDS November 03, 2011 at 09:53 AM
All of you pining for PSE&G should realize that while the grass may always seem greener on the other side, if you look at the Maplewood and South Orange Patches you will see that they are PSE&G for electricity and most of those people only got their power back yesterday. So at most PSE&G is only about a day ahead of JCP&L. Hardly a panacea.
MominSH November 03, 2011 at 12:13 PM
I still have no power and no estimate for when it might return. I live right by the Glenwood school. I would have loved to have gotten mine back yesterday. Our roads in our neighborhood are also still impassable with trees and downed wires blocking them. This is day 6 since the storm.
gracie November 03, 2011 at 02:19 PM
Over in the West Road & Winderemere Terrace area no one has been around the township drove through on Sunday but have not seen anyone since. Surprised they light at the Hobart Gap intersection is still not working. A street by street update would be fantastic.
JShepard November 03, 2011 at 02:40 PM
PSE&G is not perfect, but in towns that have both, the response is markedly better. Even the governor has commented that in terms of percentages, PSE&G is way ahead of JCP&L in restoring power to their customers. PSE&G sends email updates every day or every few days to let people know where things stand (something JCP&L has never done). And it seems that PSE&G starts mobilizing crews in advance of an anticipated event so that they can start the restoration process sooner. (And no, I do NOT work for PSE&G), and my power is still out...
JShepard November 03, 2011 at 02:42 PM
JCP&L has apparently hired some independent contractors to help them - one was at my house last night "assessing" the damage. He told me that as a single house without power I am at the bottom of the priority list (which I knew anyway), even though my "fix" would take 5-10 minutes. But he also said that although they have been told everyone should be on by midnight Friday, the crews were told to extend their hotel stays through the weekend. I don't see that as a good sign...
MarkDS November 03, 2011 at 02:44 PM
Check out the bulletin board on Maplewood On Line and see that people are still without power as of now and are not getting much information. Or check out the news reports on Teaneck. Really, the grass is not much greener elsewhere.
nm November 03, 2011 at 02:56 PM
From the NJ Board of Public Utilities. website.. The Board of Public Utilities is a regulatory authority with a statutory mandate to ensure safe, adequate, and proper utility services at reasonable rates for customers in New Jersey. Accordingly, the NJBPU regulates critical services such as natural gas, electricity, water and telecommunications and cable television. The Board addresses issues of consumer protection, energy reform, deregulation of energy and telecommunications services and the restructuring of utility rates to encourage energy conservation and competitive pricing in the industry. The Board also has responsibility for monitoring utility service and responding to consumer complaints. Mission Statement To ensure the provision of safe, adequate and proper utility and regulated service at reasonable rates, while enhancing the quality of life for the citizens of New Jersey and performing these public duties with integrity, responsiveness and efficiency. (2002). We know our local officials are inept in handling this situation. But where is our governor!!!!
Hedley November 03, 2011 at 03:08 PM
PSE&G is also a local company so they do not need to bring in resources from out of state which, of course, always takes JCP&L a few days, so PSE&G gets a faster jump.
frustrated resident November 03, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Just spoke to a representative from senator frelinghuysen's office who told me jcpl has provided a street by street restoration plan to our township council. Where is it??
MOMSH November 03, 2011 at 03:27 PM
FYI - we did not cut our branches to 4 ft in length or 4 in diameter as per that ridiculous township call the other night. Instead, we just dragged them all to the curb as is, and left them there. Yesterday afternoon, a township backhoe and garbage truck came by and picked them all up!! I couldn't believe it! So, I wouldn't worry about cutting them up. We have enough to do! Maybe our tax dollars can cover removing large branches as is!
Ira Berkowitz November 03, 2011 at 03:41 PM
Lost power Saturday, came back Monday afternoon, back out Tuesday afternoon, came back last night at 6. I finally spotted a utility truck working on Beechwood last night. First truck I've seen in our town all week. When all of this is over, there needs to be a serious discussion about investing in/updating our infrastructure so we are not held captive like this again.
Really People November 03, 2011 at 03:48 PM
agreed completely, Ira! There are many town infrastructure issues that need to be addressed and perhaps more that haven't been exposed by either of our two recent disasters. We need township leadership to listen to the community and open their eyes to the issues and not just brush post-hurricane floyd and now irene infrastructure improvements under the rug while focusing intently on an $8mm parking deck.
LDSF November 03, 2011 at 06:32 PM
Transmission Lines and Reliability>>  Trees falling on power lines or branches coming in contact with power lines cause many transmission outages nationwide, according to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a regulatory organization that enforces reliability standards.  In addition to routine transmission maintenance work, as a direct result of the  2003 blackout  the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) does not allow trees to be pruned when they have the capacity to grow close to, come in contact with or fall into a high-voltage transmission line. In those cases, utilities must remove the trees. It is the responsibility of utilities to ensure that trees do not endanger transmission lines.
LDSF November 03, 2011 at 06:33 PM
New Jersey Permanent Statutes TITLE 40 MUNICIPALITIES AND COUNTIES 40:55D-2. Purpose of the act a. To encourage municipal action to guide the appropriate use or development of all lands in this State, in a manner which will promote the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare; b. To secure safety from fire, flood, panic and other natural and man-made disasters; c. To provide adequate light, air and open space; d. ......,. e. To promote the establishment of appropriate population densities and concentrations that will contribute to the well-being of persons, neighborhoods, communities and regions and preservation of the environment;
LDSF November 03, 2011 at 06:39 PM
Power is on. Hooray!
JB November 03, 2011 at 06:43 PM
Where are you LDSF?
Ira Berkowitz November 03, 2011 at 08:56 PM
This mess has inspired me. Take a look at my latest IraSez blog post: http://irasez.com/2011/11/03/old-and-overburdened-infrastructure/
LDSF November 03, 2011 at 09:00 PM
JBlake: The Hobart section. The worst area after the storm.
Marty Wilson November 03, 2011 at 09:51 PM
and the communication from PSEG is significantly better than JCPL. JCPL supervisor I saw in town was imbecilic, actually I take that back since my comment is an insult to imbeciles everywhere.
Ira Berkowitz November 04, 2011 at 02:34 AM
If anyone wants to know where all the utility trucks are, they are parked at the Livingston Mall. Let's go shopping!


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