FLEMINGTON, NJ – For the first time since the widespread power blackouts in March that plunged some of the county into darkness for more than 10 days, Jersey Central Power & Light area manager Stan Prater returned to a Hunterdon Freeholder meeting.

A traditional fixture at the meetings, Prater had been noticeably absent since the storms, notwithstanding requests from county Freeholder Director Matt Holt.

It is the first time Prater has spoken at a public meeting here since then. He did not speak when the state Board of Public Utilities held a hearing about JCP&L service in Sergeantsville last month.

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Referring to the May 4 BPU hearing, Prater told the Freeholders that a leaning pole reported by a Tewksbury resident on Old Driftway Lane “has been inspected and scheduled to be straightened and secured next week.” A Stockton resident who complained about wires still being down on the ground was notified “that the wires belong to Century Link,” Prater said.

Prater told Freeholders that he’d met with Tewksbury Committeeman Peter Melick, who asked that JP&L be more aggressive with its tree trimming.

“I met with him along with a Forestry Supervisor,” Prater said,  “and we surveyed areas in Tewksbury. Most of the trees were ash trees and we are able to remove some of the them with permission from the property owners.”

But trees outside of the rights-of-way that could impact JCP&L infrastructure “will have to be removed or maintained by the property owners,” he added.

Prater also responded to Hunterdon Director of Public Safety George Wagner’s complaint to the BPU that Prater hadn’t been attending public meetings. The meetings are an “opportunity to interact with government officials,”  Wagner told regulators, and “Freeholder meetings are also attended by members of the public ...What kind of message does this send?”

“I would like to clarify,” Prater told the Freeholders. He said he spoke with Holt on March 6 and we “agreed that I would not attend a Freeholder meeting until after the BPU hearing.”

JCP&L Vice President of External Affairs John Anderson attended the April 17 Freeholder meeting, Prater said, and had “met briefly with George Wagner” after the meeting. Anderson and Prater also met with Holt on May 1, Prater said.

“Since the three nor’easters in March, JCP&L continues to conduct storm restoration process meetings and partner with the county OEMs throughout our entire service territory,” Prater said, reading from a prepared statement. “JCP&L has conducted three meetings for Hunterdon County elected officials and emergency management officials, hosted by the Hunterdon County OEM.”

And Prater said JCP&L “will be conducting our annual OEM review exercise at the Hunterdon County OEM” on July 9  “which will be attended by a BPU representative.” Prater invited county officials, including Holt and other Freeholders, Wagner, and County Administrator Kevin Davis, to also attend.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct that Prater attended the BPU hearing last month.