SPRINGFIELD, NJ — For five days, residents in the area of North and South Derby Road, Lynn Drive and Becker Road have been frustrated by what they say is slow to nonexistent action from JCP&L to remove the dangerously low-hanging remnants of a telephone pole destroyed after tropical Storm Isaias made its way through the state on Tuesday.
The issue is a visible stand-in for what many residents see as an overall poor effort, with service only being restored to a large section of town yesterday afternoon, after almost three full days without power.
For residents of the streets affected by the pole, the frustration continues to mount, as they see inaction in the face of an inherently dangerous situation. Yesterday, on day four TAPinto Springfield spoke with residents in the neighborhood to gauge their frustration.
One of those residents is Claire Bernstein, who said that in her case, while getting power back would be nice, her main issue lies in the continued apathy by JCP&L in regards to a dangerous situation.
"The primary issue to me is the safety of the situation," Bernstein said. "The power would be wonderful obviously, to get that restored [...] but there's obviously a huge safety issue with a big pole like that flying over the street like that on day four with so many kids, people walking their dogs, riding their bikes. So safety first, and power obviously really close second."
Another neighbor, John Hrynyk, whose wife Jennifer took the most widely circulated picture in town of the downed pole said that his frustration derives from a continued pattern of poor service.
"I'm very upset and angry with JCP&L," Hrynyk said. 12 years that we've lived here, this is the fifth time we've lost power for a significant amount of time because of JCP&L."
"They don't communicate with anyone," Hrynyk added. "The town is decent in communicating, but JCP&L doesn't communicate, and they just don't care. I would prefer to be PSE&G, but I guess we can't do that."
Among the strongest words for JCP&L were spoken by former Springfield Mayor Clara Harelik. She tore into the utility company for what she saw as carelessness in not promptly handling the issue at hand.
"I think it’s very upsetting that JCP&L has taken so long to address such a critical situation," Harelik said. "In this neighborhood alone, there are people with medical issues, people were trapped, couldn't get out of their driveways and you have live wires with a lot of kids riding bikes and walking.
"It's a very unsafe situation, and there's been no communication to the residents on any timing other than what they sent out to everyone in the state of NJ about next Tuesday, Aug. 11."
Harelik also said that from her perspective, while JCP&L does have a process for restoration, immediate action should be taken on more dangerous situations, like the hanging pole.
"I believe that when you have safety issues, that should take priority," Harelik said. "The company should be on top of it, and at least let the residents who are involved with the process and at risk know what's happening. We don't know anything. In fact two days after the storm, I got a text message that my outage was still pending investigation, even though I reported that there was a downed transformer, downed wires, broken poles."
Overall, many residents have expressed a desire to see service switched from JCP&L to PSE&G, something that as has been noted, would be an improbable undertaking based on current regulatory structures. However, it apears likely that residents and township officials will at least raise some discussion on the issue following restoration of power.
As Bernstein noted, even if the township can not switch, there are still a few options she would like to see taken in regards to preventing similar situations in the future.
"Better communication from them would be huge, to know where you are on the list in terms of where the repairs are happening and when," she said. "From a town perspective, whether it's the town or JCP&L, the trees in town need to be taken care of in a better way so these types of things don't happen so readily. So many trees just have limbs that overhang the wires, and that would be a huge step for everyone, if the trees were maintained even better."
Additionally, Bernstein said that appreciates the effort of those in town putting pressure on people to get things done, but wants to see things happen faster.