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Residents Demand Answers from JCP&L

Dozens of residents pummeled JCP&L reps with questions & demands for improvement.

The energy in the room was electric as more than 30 residents voiced their concerns and opinions about their experience with power outages not only resulting from Hurricane Irene and the October 29 snow storm, but ongoing outages, as many as eight long term outages in the past year completely unrelated to weather conditions.

The tone of residents’ comments ranged from deliberate and logical recommendations for change going forward to complete exasperation and raw frustration, as representatives from Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) listened for almost three hours during the Washington Township Committee meeting on Mon. Nov. 21, 2011.

Senator Anthony R. Bucco, and his son Assemblyman Anthony Mark Bucco, also expressed their grave concern over the chronic power outages as well as the handling of the outages related to the two major storms that occurred on August 29 and October 29, 2011.

“This is just not acceptable,” said Senator Bucco to Stan Prater, Area Manager for JCP&L.

Bucco said he was out of power for six days and he knows first hand the hardships that many residents have had to endure. 

Of the many comments, the concerns and recommendations came down to a few major demands that included:

* improved communications between JCP&L and its customers during major power outages as well as shorter term, but chronic outages;

* solid commitment from JCP&L to radically upgrade the infrastructure in and around Washington Township which not only would include updating equipment, but also in some cases installing power lines underground, and a more rigorous and frequent tree-trimming schedule;

* significant improvement in planning efforts for additional crews and utilization of electrical workers during major outage events.

Mayor Kenneth Short, who invited JCP&L representatives to meet with the Township Committee and residents, said at the outset that he did not want to dwell on the pain and suffering endured by thousands of residents, but rather focus on specifically what kind of changes and improvements could be made as quickly as possible.

"I'm also looking for absolute assurance and commitment from JCP&L that it will turn around this situation that will no longer be tolerated by residents," said Short.

In response to the many comments and complaints, Prater said that JCP&L has plans to resolve the outage issues through more frequent tree trimming and the installation of a new and critical connection between the Chester sub station 17541 and the Drakestown sub station 17101, that JCP&L engineers expect will alleviate the chronic outage problems for residents in the area of Bartley and Four Bridges Roads, an area that has experienced seven major outages in the last year.

But residents’ like Tracy Tobin, who was recently elected to the Township Committee, is skeptical that the company will make good on its promises.

“What we’ve seen from JCP&L is a company that is reactive, not proactive,” said Tobin.

Long time residents of the township, like Roger Friday said he and his neighbors have been dealing with outages for decades.

“I’m not only one of the black boxes on the map that the company refers to when an outage occurs, I’m living in a black hole,” said Friday who was out of power for four days in October of 2008 and eight days after the most recent storm.

Residents also called for honesty from the company.

“We need to know how much JCP&L plans to spend on improving infrastructure in this township,” said Dennis Wharton, who experienced seven outages in the last year.

Other complaints lodged by many residents included being told by JCP&L customer service representatives that since their homes were in sparsely populated neighborhoods that they were considered low priority when reestablishing power during major outages.

Prater said the goal of the company has been to first concentrate on restoring power to highly populated areas first to which several residents responded with indignation calling the practice unfair.

One Hyland Avenue resident, who has lived in the township for only five and a half months and has been without power for a total of 14 days was told by JCP&L that she was in a low priority area.

She said, “My taxes don’t reflect that I live in a low priority area and I pay the same rate as everyone else for electricity and yet I’m considered a low priority, this is just not right.”

Mayor Short said that he expects JCP&L to respond to the dozens of questions posed by residents and make the answers available on the Washington Township Web site in two weeks.

Assemblyman Bucco urged residents to get in touch with him and his father if they have specific problems that are not being addressed.

“If you can’t get an answer, we will do everything to get an answer for you,” said Bucco.

Another resident recommended that the township establish a committee to deal with the outage issue and work on an on-going basis with JCP&L to make the recommended improvements.

Another resident suggested that the township investigate the possibility of getting power from another energy company and discontinuing paying tariffs to JCP&L. 

MaryLynn Schiavi November 25, 2011 at 08:47 PM
Just received $424 estimated bill from JCP&L for one month for the period of: Oct 20 through Nov. 21. Hello! My normal bill is less than $100. My power was off for 2-1/2 days. What is this based upon???
Steve Carter November 25, 2011 at 10:02 PM
Perhaps this reflects a new penalty fee assessed on "low priority black zone" residents for not using enough electricity. I can here it now, "we spent alot of money putting in the infrastructure to support these residents and now they aren't using enough power to pay for it". Their calculation would be based upon JCPL's estimate of power that you could have used if you were using power during this period. Then again, since your power was only out 2.5 days, maybe you are being assessed a new high-priority fee! PS, I'm kidding. It's the turkey that made me say that.
MaryLynn Schiavi November 25, 2011 at 10:05 PM
Not sure if there is any correlation at all, but a day after my power was restored one of my lamps caught on fire. Hmmm. Sure wish we had solar power ready for prime time.
Kathlyn Carter November 25, 2011 at 10:19 PM
Perhaps JCP&L is very angry about Patch and decided to send a large bolt of electricity to your house to show you whose in charge.
MaryLynn Schiavi November 25, 2011 at 10:21 PM
Fire from the gods? The big corporations -- right? They seem to hold all the power.
LV Mom November 27, 2011 at 11:04 PM
Wow MaryLynn, I sure hope you called in with your actual reading!
MaryLynn Schiavi November 27, 2011 at 11:14 PM
Yeah, another thing to put on my mile long to-do list.
d33nb0 November 30, 2011 at 06:33 AM
JCP&L was acquired by First Energy Corp. of Akron, OH when it 'merged' with GPU Energy of Morristown, NJ in 2001. First Energy Corp. has since made other acquisitions; MYR Group, Allegheny Energy. Is it any surprise that such a heavily leveraged company has cut costs by dismissing staff, delaying maintenance, taking a reactive stance to potential problems rather then proactive? People, this is free market capitalism at its best. Better get used to it.
Steve Carter November 30, 2011 at 02:39 PM
d33nb9, Not sure I understand your comment. Wouldn't free market capitalism indicate that I can buy from my vendor of choice? Would that not imply that there is no government mandated monopy on the delivery of service to me, which is what the state of NJ specifically grants to JCP&L?
d33nb0 December 03, 2011 at 05:50 AM
I'm not talking about end consumer portion of this market which, as you know, isn't a free one. I'm addressing what goes on further upstream. In the free market system as practised in the US, for-profit corporations are by their very nature inclined, and allowed, to eliminate the competition in their respective markets. Some attempt this by producing goods and services superior to their competitors, others thru acquistions and mergers (it's quicker with a more predictable results). Corporate executives, typically the CEO, use this latter scenario to their advantage by arranging such mergers and writing massive one-time bonuses for themselves and their cronies into the merger contract. When the merger is complete, the resulting company, it's common stockholders, employees and customers are left holding the bag; a company deep in debt and little added value to show it. AT&T staggered for a while after it acquired Bell South a number of years back, AT&T's CEO received a check for $40 million as payment for arranging the deal. Bill Ford brought his family's business to its knees after gaining controlling interest in Madza, Volvo, Jaguar. Though he may never be called apon to be CEO for Ford Motor Co. again, he walked away a very wealthy man. Most mergers/acquisitions these days aren't for the benefit of the company and its investors, just the upper-level managment.
Tracy Tobin December 03, 2011 at 09:50 PM
After all is said, and unfortunately very little is done, our problems with JCP&L boil down to a very simple answer. JCP&L, like many companies today, is nothing but a "Cash Cow" for it's parent company First Energy of Ohio. That means we get milked for the revenue we provide and First Energy sends as little cash as possible back to us in order to maximize their profits. i.e. Minimal investment in new more efficient, more reliable infrastructure, band aid repairs on aging infrastructure, outsourcing maintenance and repair servcies and don't get me started on right of way tree clearing. As I said in a previous post, the solution has to come from the BPU leaning on JCP&L/First Energy to start making the necessary investments to restore our electrical system to something that approximates what we pay for. That is going to require the Governor and both houses of the State Legislature to lean heavily on the BPU. If the BPU can't do the job, it should be eliminated and it's responsibilities turned over to an existing State Agency that can get the job done. Write the Governor and Legislators! Demand Action! Read an interesting article in today's Star Ledger Business section. According to the State Division of Rate Counsel, JCP&L has not requested a rate increase for its services in years. Unbelievable? Possibly JCP&L has been so noble because it appears their Return on Investment EXCEEDS the State guidelines. JCP&L's spokesman doesn't believe that there is a need for a rate review.
roger freiday December 04, 2011 at 12:38 PM
Has anyone seen ANY, further repairs since the storm? On Drakestown road and Laketown, we have some trees almost at a 45 degree angle, leaning OVER the road and WIRES, One tree even has a red ribbon around it. There's still colored ribbons on lines over Drakestown, Debris still narrows road ways on the shoulders. JCPL band-aids are getting tattered, but I have yet to see ANY REMEDIAL upgrading or repair. The BPU, does lean on JCPL if you send formal complaints but there's no follow-up or punitve action. ANOTHER thing, Long Valley, and particulalry the Zoning Board of ''Appeasement'' has to STOP allowing ''flag lots, ''flag off a flag'' and ''flag off a flag off an easement'' like we have on Jones lane ! WHAT do you think will happen when THAT GUY'S line goes down, on his ''sky hook'' plot ? Can JCPL even GET TO IT, and, if HE"S OUT, we are ALL OUT until they reach him.. Mr Tobin, please PASS THIS ON to the Committee, road dept. etc., as I am getting worn out with them all on this subject.
Kathlyn Carter December 04, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Hey, why are people picking on JCP&L again? Tomorrow is the date that they are going to be providing us with the answers to all of our questions (the Brooklyn Bridge is still for sale). I got an interesting answer already. On or about 11/4/11 I spoke to a "Floor Support Resolutionist" who put in an order for me to the "Forestry Dept". The following week I actually received a call back. I explained the tree problem pretty much as Mr. Freiday stated, including several trees on Fairview whose roots are significantly exposed. The Forestry Supervisor said that he would check out the area on 10/25/11 and offered me a call back with the results. I accepted. Would anyone like to know the results? Check out my next "comment"
Kathlyn Carter December 04, 2011 at 02:55 PM
Oops. Got my date wrong. He was going to check it out on 11/25/11.
Kathlyn Carter December 04, 2011 at 03:27 PM
On 12/2/11 I received a voice message on my cell phone from the Forestry Dept. Supervisor. I am not releasing his name because I don't want to get him in trouble. He is just following orders. The response was: ..."Hello Mrs. Carter. This is _____. I spoke to you a couple of weeks ago...I told you that I would give you a call in reference to the trees around your property & on your road. Currently we had to work in a substation that got hit very very hard by the storm and we've been mandated to clear that substation up currently. Our guys will be working in the Chester area. I'm hoping to get back to it by the first of the year to work on your road & other areas within Chester. Chester substations are getting done next year. Apparently I still don't know exactly when we're doing them. I have not been notified on that date, other than the first part of the year or the end of the year yet"....He did leave me a number to call him back at if I had anymore questions. I do have a question. WHO IS GIVING THE ORDERS AT JCP&L AND WHO IS GOING TO HOLD BPU ACCOUNTABLE FOR NOT PUTTING AN END TO THE ABUSE? Please, Tracy Tobin, could you get our Mayor & Town Committee members to join in with those other towns who have signed petitions to be serviced by another energy company? I still keep my bathtub full just in case, but can't do anything to prevent freezing pipes (we have a backorder in for a generator).
roger freiday December 05, 2011 at 12:40 PM
I suggest EVRYONE passes on their complaints by e-mail or phone to the BPU. Lame as they may seem, over the years I have often taken anxious phone calls from JCPL supervisors asking me for more info, and even occasionally offering some action. JCPL does jump when the BPU barks, too bad they don't BITE.
Kathlyn Carter December 05, 2011 at 02:24 PM
It is 2 weeks today since our town meeting with JCP&L. When and how will the residents be notified of JCP&L's responses to our questions?
Angelo December 05, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Mayor Short said the answers by JCP&L would be posted on the township website. Don't know if Short received them today, or earlier. The JCP&L answers are not on the twp website.
Kathlyn Carter December 07, 2011 at 02:59 PM
So where are the answers to our questions. We were supposed to have them by 12/5 and today is 12/8. Did JCP&L erroneously send their response to Long Hill Twp or Chester? They don't seem to know that there is a town by the name of Long Valley in their service area.
MaryLynn Schiavi December 07, 2011 at 05:33 PM
Is anyone else paying $3.90 a gallon for home heating oil? Talk about caught between a rock and a hard place. Because I'm going broke paying for heating oil I think maybe I should lower the thermostat to 50 and use space heaters -- but then is JCP&L going to push the prices through the roof because of the cost of recent storms? The birds have the right idea. Maybe it's better to drain the pipes and get out of town during the winter. Any body have any suggestions for oil companies that charge reasonable prices?
Steve Carter December 07, 2011 at 06:11 PM
Hi There are definitely some bargain oil providers out there. However, if you want a "full-service" company that takes responsibility for your heating system, they tend to cost more. I was with Region Oil (aka Spartan, Christy Halsey, etc. for 30 years before I realized they were gouging me. At one time, their service was so good I didn't shop, but then they laid their guys off and there was no reason to pay their premium price. I am now with Dixon Bros. They have a full service and also provide propane. Their pricing is much better than Region, and their service is outstanding. If you don’t need a full service provider, then there are lots of discount providers. See them in the Daily Record and Observer. The only thing to beware of is that some of these are just “man with truck” operations, so they are not so good at automatic filling before you go dry, and they run out quickly if and when we have another oil shortage.
roger freiday December 07, 2011 at 08:26 PM
it's called the ''spot market'' often up to a whole DOLLAR less than full service. All you need do is read the gauge on your tank and order. IF you have an underground tank or no gauge, you measure with a ruler, has to be long enough to reach bottom (4 or 5 ft ) or more. The ''weights and measures'' dept can tell you what ''INCHES of oil'' in a 275 or 550 or 1000 gallon tank represents or Google it. For service there's plenty mechanics not necesarliy connected to a full service company.
Kathlyn Carter December 08, 2011 at 02:23 AM
Any bets on what time we lose power tonight?
Joanne December 08, 2011 at 05:15 AM
I was thinking the same thing, have my flashlight ready just in case! It's pretty windy
roger freiday December 08, 2011 at 01:05 PM
funny, I was sure it would go out, it did, but only for about a minute, after all, we already GOT most of the trees and limbs down for JCPL with the last couple storms.
Angelo December 08, 2011 at 03:53 PM
JCP&L answers delayed a week or two: http://longvalley.patch.com/articles/mayor-another-1-2-weeks-for-jcp-l-answers
Kathlyn Carter December 08, 2011 at 04:26 PM
Yes, I read about that. It was JCP&L who told us at the meeting that they would have their answers back to us in 2 weeks. In the real business world their response is unacceptable. Where is Donald Trump when we need him? YOU'RE FIRED!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
LV Mom December 08, 2011 at 05:26 PM
Just got mine on Saturday @ $3.80/gallon! I remember it used to be less than gasoline, what in the world happened?
LV Mom December 08, 2011 at 05:27 PM
You can look on danielfamilyfuel.com, they post the daily price, today being $3.48.
LV Mom December 08, 2011 at 05:29 PM
I have had Dixon/Eager/Northstar since buying my home, and I pay about 30 cents more per gallon because I have a service contract (that I pay $300 a year for). How is that fair?

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