Home News JCP&L short on solutions to concerns at public meeting

JCP&L short on solutions to concerns at public meeting

by Cat Jackson

A special meeting of the Hopewell Township Committee was held on March 12 to meet with Tina Earley of Jersey Central Power and Light. JCP&L customers across the State have been suffering from frequent outages and long restoration times. In Hopewell, many residents are on wells and septic systems, which makes timely power restoration disproportionately important.

The meeting began with a full presentation by Earley, which can be viewed along with the entire recorded meeting here.

A summary of the presentation

JCP&L operates on a twenty-four hour rotation after every storm, with teams addressing damages in order of priority, Earley explained. The first level of priority is always safety; if the storm winds are too strong to allow trucks to reach damage sites, JCPL will not send crews out until that weather condition has died down. The six-part priority list, transcribed from the presentation, is:

  1. Isolate problems, make the site safe, and assess the damage.
  2. Repair high-voltage lines and restore essential functions.
  3. Restore hospitals, critical facilities, and open roadways.
  4. Repair main feeder and distribution lines
  5. Restore the areas with the largest number of customers.
  6. Restore individual homes.

If an individual home has lost power because of damage to one of the main distribution lines, they will see power restoration as soon as that damage can be repaired. However, if the damage is in an isolated area, or if the site of a blockage is affected by a fallen tree that must be cleared by the forestry crew, restoration will be delayed. According to Earley, tree damage is especially common in Hopewell due to the many forested areas. 

Earley stressed that it is very important that residents report outages in their homes, even if the entire neighborhood is out and other members of the neighborhood have reported the outage. This allows JCP&L to keep an accurate record. If you are a JCP&L customer, log into your FirstEnergy account or, if you are not able to access the internet, text OUT to 544487 or call 888-544-4877 (888-LIGHTSS). (In order for the text message to work, you must text with a phone number that is associated with your JCP&L account.)

Estimated power restoration times can be found by:

  • visit firstenergycorp.com/outages
  • log into the FirstEnergy account
  • text STAT to 544487
  • call 888-544-4877 (888-LIGHTSS)

These estimates will change as conditions change or more information is gathered. Global ETR (Global estimated time of restoration) is the time that JCP&L expects the last customer to be restored after an event. The vast majority of the customers will be restored well before that time.

Committee concerns and response

Multiple Township Committee members pointed out that power is restored far more quickly by Public Service Energy and Gas (PCE&G), who serve a region that is not noticeably more dense in trees than JCP&L’s territory. Committee Member Kevin Kuchinski said that over the years, PCE&G has sent representatives out to identify long-term issues and build more infrastructure. Kuchinski commended JCP&L for the work they have done to maintain the grid, but without redundant infrastructure, he said, families will still be significantly burdened by weather-related power outages. Improvements to the grid have been discussed, he said, but no significant changes have been made.

“We need to have a systemic solution,” said Kuchinski. “Tree-trimming alone is not going to do it.”

Committee member David Chait further pointed out that in the six-step restoration process, it is not clear whether homes on well and septic are given priority. For people living in these homes, electric power is a health and safety concern. Earley said that JCP&L does know which homes were on well and septic, and that information is factored into the decision making process. However, those present who use septic systems said they are used to suffering from days-long outages. 

Emergency Management Coordinator Will Mullen has been working with Earley and JCPL. When invited to speak, he pointed out that Hopewell Township is far less dense and populous than nearby municipalities, but that those dense regions are usually on public water and sewage. When JCP&L deprioritizes isolated houses, it often means that those who need power most critically are the ones who go without.

Several people came forth during public comment with more specific grievances. Christine Schmidt told a story of damage done during January by a fallen ash tree. According to Schmidt, JCP&L sent crews to her street, but did not repair the damage, because the damage was to a phone pole that officially belonged to Verizon. Schmidt learned about this from a neighbor, and had to call Verizon independently. It took eleven days to get power fully restored, during which time Schmidt’s loved ones experienced significant property damage due to flooding in the basement. Moreover, she said JCP&L incorrectly identified the repairs as already completed – which meant that power was restored while the live wire was still down. Earley said that the technician was supposed to contact Verizon in that instance, and could not say whether this was an isolated incident or an ongoing communication issue.

Earley answered what questions she could, and will bring all of the concerns back to the company. Unfortunately, no solid solutions were determined at this meeting. If you have any problem with a utility company, you can also file a complaint with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. Instructions are available online at https://www.nj.gov/bpu/assistance/complaints/.

To learn why you can’t switch your utility company, click here.

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About Us

MercerMe is the only hyperlocal, independent, online news outlet serving Hopewell Valley in Mercer County, New Jersey.

Contact us: [email protected] 

Search Our Archives

About Us

MercerMe is Hopewell Valley’s own digital news source, delivering in-depth, hyperlocal coverage that informs and strengthens the community.

 

Contact us: [email protected]

PO Box 260

Hopewell, New Jersey 08525

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