20 Aug 2014
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Mayor: Power Restoration is First Priority

Council is considering a resolution to petition for removal of JCP&L from Bridgewater.

Mayor: Power Restoration is First Priority

With more than 2,000 residents still without power, Bridgewater Township Mayor Dan Hayes said that restoration has to be the first priority.

"At the height of the storm, we had 14,000 without power, and this still remains unacceptable," he said in a report to the township council Thursday. "Having any residents without power is frustrating, and we are fully committed to advocating for the residents until power is back on for everyone."

In Bridgewater, Hayes said, the damage of the storm was not as severe as in other areas of the state, but, at the individual level, that cannot be said for the person who lost a house.

Approximately 50 people, Hayes said, reported that their homes had been struck by trees.

But for the most part, Hayes said, the biggest reports have been from residents without power, and the administration has been fielding those calls for the almost two weeks since the storm hit.

"I understand their frustrations, and they are shared by me and other communities," he said. "I think the governor recognizes this too, and has assumed all responsibility for making power restoration a priority."

As of Friday morning, there were 1,818 PSE&G customers without power, and all were expected to be restored by the end of the day Saturday, according to the company's workplan.

With JCP&L, there were still 509 customers without power, with projections of Sunday for full restoration.

And it is frustrations over that latter number that has residents most angry.

"When I look around, I see the damage, but I don't see the crews," Hayes said. "It is unclear how they will make this happen, and I have expressed that to the companies."

Hayes said some residents have begun to look into petitioning to have the board of public utilities intervene in allowing residents to choose who their service provider is.

"The total absence of JCP&L trucks from right after the event was scandalous," said township councilman Howard Norgalis. "They simply weren't there."

"In my area, on the eighth day, two trucks from Virginia showed up and fixed the issue," he added. "But the power company we pay our bill to, they just weren't there. I saw a lot of PSE&G trucks, they were out in force. JCP&L was simply absent."

And council president Allen Kurdyla questioned whether the administraion could actually petition to challenge having JCP&L in Bridgewater.

"The majority of the complaints seem to be toward JCP&L," he said. "Quite honestly, as a member of the governing body, I believe there's not much we can do about choosing, however I do feel that we should find out if we as a governing body can make a petition to remove JCP&L."

Councilman Filipe Pedroso said he would be interested in holding a public hearing to speak to the residents about their thoughts on the JCP&L response, and also have a representative from the company in to answer questions.

"The residents are complaining loudly, and the numbers are showing they weren't here fixing the problem," he said. "The residents weren't served by them."

Hayes said many towns around the state are currently protesting JCP&L, and even PSE&G in some cases.

"The governor feels strongly they are doing a good job, but, at the local level, that doesn't seem to be the case," he said. "I would disagree with the governor. We get responses that speak to basically a date, but the date doesn't seem believable."

Members of the council said they are in favor of looking into the resolution to support the possiblity of removing JCP&L from Bridgewater.

"I think our only traction would be the concern of reallocating the service area from JCP&L to PSE&G," Norgalis said. "They did poorly a year ago, and I realize they had stuff ready to go, but the proof would be seeing a JCP&L truck, and I didn't see that despite their efforts."

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