TRENTON, NJ - Noting that thousands of North Jersey residents and businesses, including many in Roxbury, remain without electricity following last Friday's snowstorm, three Republican state lawmakers today called on Gov. Phil Murphy to declare a state of emergency.
Murphy, a Democrat, wasn't biting.
“The Governor continues to monitor the damage and outages caused by the nor’easter," said Murphy's press aide, Alyana Alfaro, when asked for a response to the lawmakers' request. "Every relevant state agency is working with the utilities to assess all options for restoring power as quickly as possible to all that remain impacted by the storm.”
In their letter to the governor, state Assemblymen Anthony Bucco of Morris County, Kevin Roony of Bergen County, Parker Space of Sussex County and Christopher DePhillips of Bergen County pointed out that another storm is predicted for March 7, one that could bring up to a foot of snow to the northwestern counties they represent.
"New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in four New York counties, where about 136,500 people were still without power Sunday afternoon," Bucco said in a statement. "Pennsylvania’s governor activated the National Guard while Virginia and Maryland declared states of emergency on Friday."
Murphy has shied away from taking that action but he's been using Twitter to comment on the matter, insisting the state government is empathetic and doing all it can to help. For example, he tweeted today that "Four days after (the storm), it's unacceptable for tens of thousands of JCP&L customers to be without power in their homes. Every step must be taken to expedite repairs."
The governor also sent out a Tweet saying the state's "Ready NJ Recovery Bureau" also "deployed personnel to the counties hardest hit ... to conduct preliminary damage assessments" as part of the state's response.
“Like most of my neighbors, the lights in my business remain off and my wife said she’s sitting in a dark, cold office,” said Space (R-Sussex), owner of Space Farms Zoo and Museum. “How long do we have to wait until Gov. Murphy takes action? At least three governors have declared states of emergencies; Murphy just tweets.”
At one point, more than 4,000 JCP&L customers in Roxbury were without power. By mid-day Monday, that number had dwindled to about 1,665. The utility grid in the township's Landing section sustained major damage in the storm, with about a dozen utility poles wrecked by trees toppled due to heavy snow and high wind.
“It is my understanding that there are still about 90,000 residents without power even as crews work around-the-clock to clear snapped trees and power lines from clogged roadways,” said Bucco, in his statement. “The state needs to do something now to help our communities get back on their feet and protect our residents.” Bucco also serves as Roxbury's township attorney.
Rooney said declaring a state of emergency opens up sources of funding. "This can significantly impact municipal budgets which are due to come out in the next two to four weeks, “he said. “As a former mayor I know how much they need help and they need it now. The governor needs to be reactive. This is not effective leadership.”
The Morris County Office of Emergency Management, on Monday morning, said JCP&L "remains in Storm Restoration mode," noting there were more than 22,000 Morris County residents with no power, but adding the number "is a significant decrease to our outage numbers from yesterday, and we are pleased that progress has been made."