For the first time since a storm of epic proportions cut electricity from 96-percent of the town’s residents, the Washington Township Committee held a regular meeting and spoke with the public about the situation.
Heading into the meeting, there was speculation residents would come out in full force to air their grievances with town leadership for poor communication, and even the absence of Mayor Ken Short in the final days before full power restoration was complete.
But the crowd of approximately 50 residents did just the opposite, with a handful publicly thanking the mayor and committee for efforts given during the two-week period of closed schools, impassable roads and dark homes in the municipality.
Short began the meeting with a lengthy, detailed synopsis of what took place between him and Jersey Central Power & Light during Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, along with debunking rumors that began to swirl during his absence from town.
“Let me clear up a couple of rumors, because rumors hurt,” Short said. “I was not on a trip with Vice Mayor Bill Roehrich.”
Short also cleared any falsehoods about his taking a generator from the town for his own home, and that he does not own stock in First Energy Corporation, JCP&L’s parent company.
Resident Roger Marvin, and employee at Morristown Medical Center, told Short and the committee he was the only one of his colleagues receiving information of some kind from his elected officials regarding power outages and restoration.
Short made a point to explain that much of the information he was given by JCP&L–if given–was incorrect and erroneous.
“We can’t trust JCP&L,” Short said. “[During the outage] I saw trucks from North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio–but I never saw a single truck from JCP&L, which is located here in New Jersey.”
On the final weekend of the outages, when Duke Energy of North Carolina set up a command post at the Long Valley Middle School, it wasn’t JCP&L, rather three committeemen coordinating and instructing the workers where to go.
“[Duke Energy] was here and ready to go,” Committeeman Jim LiaBraaten said. “But no one was there to coordinate. We laid out maps on the hoods of their trucks and showed them where certain roads were. The township committee shouldn’t have had to do that; that’s JCP&L’s job.”
Short concluded by telling residents the town would work together to make sure an extended outage wouldn’t happen again, and if it did, the town’s people would be better taken care of.
“The steps the township took were to make things a little easier,” Short said of actions created during the outage. “It was like placing a band-aid on an open wound. The wound, in this case, was JCP&L."
Video clips from the meeting can be played at the right of this article.