CALDWELL, NJ - Last evening, area residents gathered at the Caldwell Community Center at the invitation of Mayor Ann Dassing who arranged for representatives of Public Service and Gas (PSE&G) to discuss the issues regarding the numerous power outages along Roseland Avenue.

Approximately 110 people were in attendance. As as resident, it’s my personal feeling that I’m somewhat  dissatisfied by that number of attendees, It’s my belief that we should have been able to fill the Middle School's auditorium with people that are fed up with PSE&G's lack of caring and lack of sensitivity to our needs.

Three PSE&G employees addressed the crowd. The first to speak was PSE&G Senior Public Affairs Head, Everton Scott, an engineer who told the group that the lines on the Roseland Avenue grid originate from a substation in West Orange, and run along Eagle Rock Avenue, through Roseland and Essex Fells, and ultimately end in Caldwell near Parkside Gardens. The engineer cited that there are many trees along the route, and the storms of the past 2 years have caused problems that were devastating to the delivery of service.

The second speaker, PSE&G Forester Robert Hagglund, works in the tree division, and he said that there are 61 places along the county roads that have been identified as problems and that they were in the process of addressing 19 of them. He stated that they had a good working relationship with Mayor Ed Abbott of Essex Fells, but that there are hundreds of trees on private and town property that cannot be touched without permission of local residents, and they are limited by the Board Of Public Utilities as to what work is permissible.

Senior Engineering Plant Supervisor, Peter Honan, was the final speaker. He explained that he had originally been a longtime worker at JCP&L. He spoke in the role of a lineman supervisor and explained how fuses are tripped and transformers blow when the lines make contact with tree limbs and become affected by wind and bad weather. He related that the routes of the power lines were designed 60 years ago; he offered no explanation as to why, because the standards, he said, were established "way before I was born."

A spirited Question and Answer from many residents followed. Suggestions for underground wiring, or hooking up to the Caldwell grid were proposed by residents and then dismissed by the representatives.

Other long time residents, like myself, expressed their dismay over the long history of an incredible amounts of outages as compared to what happens in other areas. Residents were angry that nothing has been done to correct the situation, or even an acknowledgement that a problem ever existed. After all, there are trees and wind and rain everywhere, not just on Roseland Avenue.

Many lamented that they were living in fear of being without heat. They expressed their health concerns for their children and the elderly, and the expense of throwing out food, while having to uproot their families for days at a time to stay in hotels or with families in other areas.

PSE&G offered no reasonable timetable for a solution to the real problem, because somebody has to be "at the end of the Line."

Caldwell’s Erin Anagnos was there as well. She expressed, “My husband and I stayed for an hour and finally got up and walked out as it wasn't a productive meeting. The officials said they would need to get back to us with a timetable but did mention that the 61 tree issues would be completed by the "end of February." It was a very ‘political’ meeting with the PSE&G officials skirting the issues and conveniently NOT answering the residents' direct questions.”

Anagnos commented that she “has a friend who is a Utilities Analyst. He recommended that I file a complaint with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.” The link to file that complaint is here.

As a resident, I can state that I hope they keep tabs on the utility, because, in my opinion, none of the residents believed a word they said. They blame trees and the weather, while they failed to address the long term problems that exist and offer true solutions to the problems in our power grid.

John McNally has been a Caldwell resident since 1979.