CHATHAM, NJ—Rolling Hill area resident Merilee Anderson says there has been a continued lack of communication between Jersey Central Power & Light Co., Chatham Township and residents concerning power outages that have occurred about 30 times since last October.
Christina Lasky, a new resident of the area, noted in her first month in the township she lost power three times and JCP&L always attributes to power losses to “trees or animals.”
“We are afraid to go out, because when we come home we don’t know if our house will be flooded because our sump pump is not working. We are going to get our own generator,” she added.
These were typical of comments from several Chatham Township residents who attended Thursday’s Township Committee meeting to voice their displeasure with the area’s electrical utility.
Stan Prater, JCP&L area manager for the district that includes the township, appeared at the meeting with Richard King, one of his engineering supervisors, and Vincent Cells, a senior engineer for the utility.
They assured residents progress is being made to address their problems, although it may take a number of years to resolve all the issues.
King noted Chatham is served by three substations—the Green Village Station and the Gillette Station, both in our on the border of the township, and the Trayor Station, in Summit.
Forty-five percent of the outages in the last year, he added, have been due to trees falling on wires, 20 percent to equipment failure, 11 percent were of unknown origin, eight percent were due to line failure and seven percent we caused by animals.
Responding to Deputy Mayor Robert Gallop, he said the percentage of outages for Chatham is “about average” compared to other communities in the area.
Prater added the utility very seldom replaced entire substations, but King noted issues of capacity are evaluated every day and updates are made as needed.
Green Village was updated in 2006 and 2007 to meet increased load demands, the engineering supervisor added.
Cells, who inspects much of the equipment in the area when outages are reported said replacement of “cutouts,” a type of fuse on the top of utility poles, is one of the most frequent causes of outages.
To meet this, he added, the utility is replacing porcelain cutouts, which are fragile and wear out during repeated freezing and heating spells, with polymer cutouts that are more resistant to temperature changes.
Areas slated for cutout replacement include Westminster Road, Robert Drive and Dale Drive.
“However, just because equipment is outdated does not mean that it does not function,” Prater said in response to a suggestion by Gallop that the utility do a “global” replacement of cutouts.
He noted replacements are made in areas where outages occur and updating in most areas happens every three to five years.
JCP&L also is replacing older “gap” lightning arrestors with more modern “MOV” arrestors to prevent short circuiting and installing new animal guards on transformer bushings in many streets in the township, Cells said.
Tree-trimming also is scheduled this year on Westminster Road, Dale Drive and Robert Drive, he noted.
Prater noted the company sets priorities for work to be done based on the frequency of outages reported in an area.
Vegetation management, last done in 2009 in the area of the Gillette station, will be done again in 2013, with trimming schedule in the areas of the Green Village and Traynor stations this year.
Thermovision inspections, using infrared cameras to measure overheating in wires, will be done this year in the Gillette and Green Village areas.
The process also was done last year in Green Village and in 2010 in the Traynor area.
Overhead visual inspections are on a five-year schedule and wooden pole inspections are on a 10-year schedule, the spokesmen noted.
Responding to a resident who asked why there are short, intermittent power interruptions, King said when a fault is detected in an area a “recloser” mechanism may temporarily shut down power in that area so repairs can be made.
Prater added residents should telephone 1-888-LIGHTSS (544-4877) or go onto the company’s website, www.firstenergycorp.com, to report outages in their homes even if they think the utility may already by responding to their neighborhood.
He said an individual resident wire may be down and, if the outage is not reported, it will take the utility longer to make a repair at a particular home.
The website now is compatible with Smartphones, Prater noted, so residents will be able to report outages even when their home computers do not have power, and the utility will work with local AM radio stations to spread the word about future outages and repairs.
On another matter, Police Chief John Paton, reported his department is introducing community policing to Chatham Township to return to the sense of “having a cop on the beat.”
Paton noted the department has divided the township into 11 patrol areas, loosely based on election district borders, and a specific officer will be assigned to each of the areas. The department also will include the traffic safety officer in the mix.
The officers, in addition to their normal daily duties, will interact personally with residents and help them with non-emergency matters in order to: Maintain or increase public confidence in the police department, decrease the fear of crime, listen to and address citizen concerns, bring community resources together to help solve problems, help solve specific crime problems, reduce repetitive calls for service and educate the public about the police.
Paton noted the public should still call the police department dispatcher in emergency matters, but their neighborhood officers will be more available to assist in other matters.
He also said he is working with the Morris County Dispatch Service, which now handles Chatham Township police calls, to make it more responsive in handling township calls.
On another matter, Township Engineer John Ruschke reported on a number of measures that could result in an estimated $5 million upgrade to the township’s sewer treatment facilities in the next few years.
Ruschke said equipment at both the Tanglewood and Chatham Glen treatment plants would have to be replaced because equipment in both facilities is reaching the end of its useful life.
The Chatham Glen facility, which deals with only 10 percent of the capacity of the Tanglewood plant, would be converted to a pumping station, with sewage treated at Chatham Glen being pumped to Tanglewood for treatment.
In addition, partially to deal more effectively with total dissolved solids, treated township waste would outflow into the Passaic River rather than into the Great Swamp, as it does currently.
Upgrading of the Tanglewood facility and conversion of Chatham Glen to a pumping station also would require installation of new force mains, according to the engineer.
The plan also would increase the capacity of the Tanglewood facility to 1.155 million gallons per day, he added.
State Department of Environmental Protection approval would be needed for the increased capacity and switching of the outflow to the Passaic River, the engineer said.
He will attempt to obtain expedited financing for the project through the State Environmental Infrastructure Trust. If the trust does not accept the project the township may have to bond the cost of the project.
In another matter, committee members met in closed session prior to Thursday’s public meeting to interview candidates for the committee seat left vacant by the recent resignation of Committeeman Kevin Tubbs, who has accepted a new business position in Wisconsin.
Mayor Nicole Hagner said Thursday the governing body probably would vote at a special meeting on Wednesday, June 6, on a new committee member to serve until the Dec. 31 expiration of Tubbs’ term.