Local, state and federal officials talk storm damage with JCP&L

Public Safety. Local elected officials met with state and federal representatives and Jersey Central Power and Light management in a roundtable discussion Tuesday morning to talk winter storm damage.

21 Jan 2020 | 03:07

Local elected officials met with state and federal representatives and Jersey Central Power and Light management Tuesday morning at the Ogdensburg Fire House in a roundtable discussion about winter storm damage.

New Sparta Mayor Jerry Murphy said he will be waiting to see what comes of it.

“It’s always after the fact that all these meetings take place,” he said. “I’d like to see them (JCP&L) be a little more proactive and come out with a plan.”

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-5, and U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-11, took part in the roundtable with state Sen. Steven Oroho, R-24 and local mayors and first responders, with the goal being a workable plan for the next storm.

“What was particularly important about today’s constructive conversation was coming up with new ideas, best practices,” Gottheimer said.

Murphy said he was told JCP&L had earmarked $22 million for tree removal and trimming, but he did not know how much the company had set aside for capital improvements.

“I’m curious to see how much JCP&L is going to invest in new equipment down the road,” he said.

Much of the area lost power for several days, following the storm at the beginning of December, with Ogdensburg and Sparta particularly hard hit. The combination of snow on top of ice brought a large number of trees down, and, with them, power lines.

Utility crews from Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio and throughout New Jersey were deployed to Sussex County to help restore power in the days after the storm.

“With every storm, they (JCP&L) get better,” Murphy said. “But which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do you have a storm to have the impetus to get better service, or do you make better service and then anticipate that you’re always going to have a storm somewhere down the road?”

During the December storm, dialysis nurse Erin McMeen said a transformer blew in her Sparta neighborhood and one of the wires landed in her driveway on her husband’s brand new truck.

McMeen said she tried to notify JCP&L of the situation but the company was less than helpful.

“We were getting worried because we had just filled the truck, so it had a full tank of gas,” she said at the time. “We were just afraid that it would cause the truck to blow.”

That undercurrent of fear prompted McMeen to call back again, after she didn’t see any response from JCP&L.

“When I did talk to them, I said, ‘You don’t understand, you have a real problem here,’” she said. “‘This wire is smoking and you need to figure out a way to deactivate this wire right now. Cut the power.’”

It was a total of four hours from the time the wire came down and hit the truck to the time the power was deactivated, McMeen said.

“I just was concerned about JCP&L’s reaction time to something that could have been a total disaster,” she said.

When asked about the incident during the roundtable, a representative from JCP&L said McMeen’s experience was not typical.

“That is what we call a life or limb priority,” he said. “Generally we get to those very, very quickly.”

For Murphy, the importance of Tuesday’s meeting lies in what happens next.

“There were suggestions made: the question is will they implement them?” Murphy said. “Will they fund them, more importantly, and will they try to pass that on as a rate increase?”

The Ogdensburg Fire House is located at 30 Main Street.

There were suggestions made: the question is will they implement them? Will they fund them, more importantly, and will they try to pass that on as a rate increase?”
- Sparta Mayor Jerry Murphy