By Vincent Todaro
Ocean Township — Some residents are not happy that electricity was so slow to come back to the township, or about a perceived lack of communication from JCP&L.
During last week’s Township Council meeting, which had to be rescheduled from Wednesday night to noon Friday because of the snowstorm, residents said changes need to be made regarding the way JCP&L communicates during power outages. The lack of power in certain areas of town didn’t make people any happier, and business administrator Andrew Brannen said he was still without power at his home in Wanamassa. While council members and residents praised township employees, especially the Department of Public Works, for their work during the storm, JCP&L was not given a passing grade. Resident Michael Gilbertson, Wanamassa, said he’s seen a number of major storms in the township, and that Wanamassa is always the last section to have its power restored. Mayor William Larkin said he wasn’t sure why that was the case, and township attorney Martin Arbus said it could be due to other sections having underground utility systems. However, one audience member said the problem is due to Wanamassa having the oldest electrical system in town and being at the end of the grid. Anything connected to the grid before must go on first. Gilbertson said he spoke to electrical workers from other states who told him there needs to be a protocol so they’re on the same page as New Jersey workers. “They need to be trained together,” he said. Coast Guard workers, for example, can switch “teams” but still work together because their training is coordinated, he said. “Guys from Virginia told me they have different protocols,” Gilbertson said. Wayside resident Don Hudson said he was without power for six days after the storm, and asked Larkin if he was “kept in the loop” by JCP&L. Larkin said he held a conference call every day with JCP&L officials, and also received police briefings. He said JCP&L gave him information regarding what streets were being worked on that day. He also said he issued work orders for “emergency situations.” “I was here hours every day,” he said. Hudson said the township web site was only working about half the time, and he was “disappointed” by the bulletins issued by the township. He said a task force should be created to study the overall response. “Public information needed to be better,” he said. Larkin said he realized residents were frustrated by the lack of specific information from JCP&L, where people either didn’t answer telephone calls or were “useless” if they did. He said he got specifics from his conference calls with JCP&L, but did not want to divulge which streets were planned for power restoration for fear of aggravating residents if power did not come back. “People would call and say ‘you promised’”, he said. JCP&L had 30 to 40 streets on its list for power restoration each day, Larkin said. “But they needed to communicate more directly with the public, rather than though us.”’ Brannen said the initial statement from JCP&L was that power would be back, throughout the township, in 7-10 days. However that time period was wishful thinking. He said people are willing to accept the power outages, but want to know exactly when power will be back. In response to a question from resident Don Geiger, Larkin said the town does not yet have an estimate for storm-related costs.