MADISON, NJ – With an estimated $20 million in damage done by Hurricane Sandy, borough residents have begun to recover, and Mayor Bob Conley said there isn’t another town in the state that responded better than Madison did.
Conley opened Monday night’s Borough Council meeting with an overview of the borough’s response to the hurricane and its aftermath.
“Look around you at the people in this room,” Conley said. “If you called the 408 number, if you walked around the street, saw crews in bucket trucks, saw us picking up debris in the streets, as you felt safe in our town with the lights out because of our public safety personnel… let’s give them a good round of applause.”
Conley remarked that Hurricane Sandy far surpassed what the borough saw during the October snowstorm last year.
“This was a proud moment for the Borough of Madison,” the mayor said. “What happened for Madison happened long before the winds and rain started a week ago. We were prepared for what we thought would be an October hurricane, and the effort that was put into that was incredible.”
Conley said borough employees kept the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) room running and helped to ensure that any resident who called the 408 number got a live person to talk to.
“For those who called, you weren’t just getting an update on where we were at with repairs or where you could go for resources, you got a live person,” he said. “The truly amazing thing is the smiles and positive conversations on the phone were as strong Monday night when the storm hit as they were last night. Whether you were among the first to get power or will be among the last, keep in mind we’re all in this together. As we got more power back, those who didn’t have it yet were getting a little frustrated. If any employees got some of that frustration aimed at them, please know the residents were speaking from frustration, not from their hearts. Madison showed its best. There’s not a town in the state that responded better than Madison did. We saw success.”
In his Community Affairs report, Councilman Bob Landrigan gave more detail from the report he gave to FEMA. The estimated damage to the borough is in excess of $20 million, Landrigan said. Thirty homes suffered major damage, 100 suffered minor damage, and 2,500 homes were affected in some way. Madison had no storm related deaths or injuries.
Landrigan said the OEM was open before the storm hit. Immediately following the storm, all roads in and out of Madison were blocked in several locations. By the end of the second day, several major roads were open and the overall assessment of the town was completed. By Wednesday, all the major roads were cleared, and crews were making headway in the isolated areas. By Thursday, the recovery effort was underway and several neighborhoods had power. By the weekend, between 75 and 85 percent of the borough had power, and by Monday night, that number had climbed to about 95 percent.
Madison has chartered buses to help those who work in the city. The buses leave at 7 a.m. from behind the police station. The cost is $20, round trip. Borough Administrator Raymond Codey said Madison has invited residents of the Chathams, Harding and Florham Park to also use the charter bus service. The borourgh will waive parking enforcement rules for those commuters, and the service will be available until regular mass transit resumes service.
Landrigan said he just received word Monday night that Morris County has been declared a FEMA disaster area. He said he will help residents who need it to apply for FEMA assistance.
He also commended Conley on his leadership during the storm and its aftermath.
“You handled this with a level of class that is to be commended,” Landrigan said. “The borough owes a great deal of thanks to you.”
Council Member Carmela Vitale thanked the Health Department personnel who organized warming centers at the ambulance squad and a second one later at the community center. Vitale also thanked all the borough employees for their help during the crisis, and thanked the family members who shared their loved ones with the borough.
Codey said the borough was able to bring gasoline and diesel in to fill up its vehicles, and what was left was given to other towns in the area that needed it. Madison also helped other towns, such as Chatham and Harding, find crews from other states to come in and help.
Residents echoed their thanks to employees and volunteers who helped the borough get back on its feet.
Lisa Ellis said Madison is “so blessed” and said she knows there are towns in New Jersey that may not have power for another week or two, or even a month or more.
“I can’t thank you enough,” Ellis said.
Tom Bintinger, who also is a member of the library board of trustees, said he echoed Ellis’ sentiments and commended the library for being open extended hours and welcoming people from other communities to use the library’s warmth and electric during the widespread outages. Bintinger estimated that 2,000 people used the library last week.
John Morris, local business owner and former president of the Chamber of Commerce, commended the council on how quickly power was restored to downtown.
“It gave residents and merchants a sense of normalcy to have downtown up and running,” Morris said, adding his thanks to those who helped get the streets cleared.
The mayor said that although Madison’s response to the storm was “great,” he knows there is always room for improvement and that the borough will welcome residents’ comments and suggestions.
Borough official Fran Boardman, lauded throughout the meeting for all the hours she spent working in the OEM, added her own thanks to Landrigan for his leadership and guidance during the storm and its aftermath despite the fact that his own home didn’t have power as of Monday night.
Borough officials also thanked the police department, fire department, EMS, public works crews and the countless other employees and volunteers who helped with the storm recovery effort. Conley said all will be more formally recognized at a later date.