CHATHAM BOROUGH, NJ - Hurricane Sandy slammed more than $680,000 in damages to the borough, according to a detailed report by the borough administrator that outlined the municipality’s preparation planning and response to the storm.
Damage caused by borough trees is approximated to be $600,000. The Department of Public Works’ 655 overtime hours cost $33,734.00. The Chatham Borough Police Department’s 411 overtime hours cost $31,107.00. The damage estimate to borough property including sidewalks is $10,000. The estimated cost for private companies to the borough for tree and brush removal is $6,000. Meals for workers and volunteers totaled $2,000.
The borough’s Joint Insurance Fund (JIF), which is in the millions, will cover the cost of damage caused by borough trees. Emergency appropriations will likely cover the rest, according to Borough Administrator Robert Falzarano who presented the report at the Council’s Nov. 12 meeting. A storm debriefing meeting with council and staff members will take place on Nov. 16.
Falzarano noted that the installation of generators at borough hall, wells and pumping stations and the installation of larger generators in the police and fire departments during the past 12 years allowed the borough to quickly begin recovery operations and avoid water and sewerage issues for residents.
Each council member and the mayor praised the extraordinary efforts of volunteers, borough employees, DPW, the fire and police departments and were thankful for residents‘ resilience.
Communication was an issue post-storm. Councilman Leonard Resto, a commuter to Manhattan, strongly criticized New Jersey Transit’s poor communication with customers. Sympathetic to the washed out rails and floods and broken poles on the train line, Resto said that not communicating anything and waiting 15 days before providing shuttle buses was not acceptable. In the interim, Council President James Lonergan made arrangements to get charter buses, dubbed “Lonergan Lines,” running to Manhattan. Resto noted that if people were told that service might be out for 2-3 weeks, for example, at least commuters could make a temporary plan. The “If you don’t drive, you don’t count,” mentality has to stop, he said.
Councilman Gerald Helfrich pointed out that the “utilities were so fearful of giving specific information.” Mayor Bruce Harris added that when it was provided, it was “just wrong information.” He said the issue would be taken “up to Trenton.”
While the borough provided updates and communications on its website and on Twitter and the school district utilized the Honeywell Alert system, resident Dave Carey suggested more venues of electronic communication such as Nixle, which is used by Chatham Township, Madison, Summit and Morristown, to add to its arsenal. Nixle is a communication network where residents can receive emails and texts via its police departments.
Although the borough also posted flyers throughout the municipality directing residents to warming and charging stations, a resident at the meeting told the council there were not enough. She also suggested that the borough consider using bullhorns in the future to address residents in the streets where power is not restored.
Harris said that the borough aimed to helped residents prepare better for future emergencies. Part of that plan includes forming teams that will hand deliver flyers.