New Providence Officials Express Frustration with JCP&L During Storm Recovery

Fallen trees and downed power lines in New Providence were a problem for many days after the Oct. 29 snowstorm. Credits: Michael Shapiro

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Borough officials Monday described their frustration with Jersey Central Power & Light Co., even as they praised local police, fire and rescue and public works employees for their efforts during and after the Halloween snowstorm.

Borough administrator Douglas Marvin the removal of branches could be completed  by Friday. The public works crews have worked the past two Saturdays and are putting in two hours of overtime a night, he said.

The borough workers and two contractors hired to help remove the storm debris are generating betweeen 900 and 1,200 pounds of wood chips per day, Mayor Brooke Hern said. He praised the borough employees for their efforts during the storm and for tackling the cleanup.

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Council president Michael Gennaro said what impressed him was that the  the borough employees were self-directed. The didn't wait for instructions, but quicked sized-up the task at hand and went to work, Gennaro said.

Marvin said at one time 3,708 of the 4,000 properties in New Providence were without power.

Hern said that while it appeared that New Providence properties were being restored to power more slowly that neighboring towns, "we were being hooked up at the same rate as everyone else."

Hern and Marvin said they were in daily contact with their JCP&L representative and sat in on conference calls when the power company president briefed local officials on the scope and pace of repairs.

The problem, Hern said, was that with 250 other local officials on the call, it was impossible to detemine any specific local information. The power company outlined the progress of repairs by zip code, Hern said, and those postal codes can include parts of more than one municipality.

Marvin said on days one and two after the snowstorm 1,300 New Providence residents got theor power back; by day three, 1,236 more were restored; by day four, 790; and on days five and six, 553. After a week there were 48 homes without power, Marvin said.

Hern said he heard from may residents that they had no updates from the borough about conditions. He said borough hall was without power for several days, so the borough's website was not available all the time. Also, he said, with the loss of power, often telephone or wireless Internet services were also knocked out.

Hern and others recommended residents get the borough's Red Alert service placed on their cell phones, in addition to their regular home phone.

Councilman James Cucco said the cleanup will cost about $150,000.

He said that some residents put non-storm tree debris curbside after the borough's crews removed the storm damaged branches. He said that private tree removal crews are also placing their cuttings curbside, and warned residents that if they hired a private tree removal company,  that company is supposed to dispose of the debris.

Marvin that there should be little budget impact from  the storm cleanup because the council added funds to the  snow removal budget within the public works department.

The council also got a quick rundown by borough attorney Carl Woodward about what will happen next following the passage of two referendum questions on Nov. 8.

Borough residents approved change to the open space ordiance to allow the funds to be used for improvement and maintenace of open space and recreation fields, and in the other ordinace, the  issuance of four retail consumption liquor licenses.

For the open space rules, Woodward said, the languge in the existing ordinance needs to be rewritten to incorporate the changes. He said a public hearing on the changes will need to be held.

For the council to sell the liquor licenses, it will need to approve a zoning change to establish where the consumption licenses can be used, and a liquor law ordinance creating the standards to be followed  by the license bidders and owner.

A zoning ordinance is being drafted  by the planning board, Councilman Vincent Vyzas said. Woodward said the borough will be able to keep the proceeds from the sale of the licenses.

"The liquor license ordinance might be the biggest thing to ever happen here because of of he good we will be able to do," Hern said. "It might be the biggest thing to happen since Springfield Avenue was paved for the very first time."

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