While Kinnelon Mayor Robert Collins took a few minutes to commend borough staff, volunteers and Butler Electric utility workers Thursday night, he also spoke of his dissatisfaction with Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) and their lack of communication regarding the 73 Kinnelon residents who use the company's power.
"We can make note of the fact that our residents were put in a very difficult position because [JCP&L] didn't do what they were supposed to do," he said.
Collins said that he first contacted JCP&L on Sunday after learning that of the 73 JCP&L customers in the borough, 85 percent remained without power. He said he did not receive a return call for days and when he did, the person on the other line seemed to provide an almost automated response.
The mayor criticized JCP&L, as other local mayors have in the past few days, for poorly communicating with municipalities about when they were working and where.
JCP&L provided restoration completion estimates on Thursday that showed only 17 Kinnelon residents to be without power. The number of JCP&L customers in Kinnelon without power represent about 23 percent of total customers in the borough and JCP&L estimated that all of the customers will be restored on Saturday.
For the residents who remained without power for days, Collins said the increasing number of people with power has not been comforting.
"Our 73 residents that were affected by this storm are going to be affected in a storm of this magnitude again," Collins said.
Councilman Ron Mondello asked if there was anything the borough could do to hold JCP&L more accountable.
"I'd like to see if we could adopt some type of ordinance where they get penalyzed, maybe $1,000-$2,000, per day," Mondello said.
Collins said other municipalities have considered similar actions in the past. In daily briefings, Collins said Gov. Chris Christie has asked local leaders not to be too hard on the company because they have been working as hard as they can.
"I don't see it," Collins said.
Councilman Gary Moleta noted how the borough's assigned JCP&L representative came before the council recently to promise the enhanced communication efforts the company had worked on since Tropical Storm Irene.
"You failed us again," Moleta said. "I think he needs to be addressed again."
Creative Storm Response Commended
One person who was able to get a quick response from JCP&L was Butler Borough Administrator Jim Lampmann, Collins said, who demanded an answer after the JCP&L feeder line to Butler Electric went down following the storm. Collins said the line to the substation was repaired and power restoration was able to resume within three days.
"Lampmann really stepped up and really put his feet to the fire on that one," Collins said.
Collins praised the Butler Electric workers altogether, explaining that they worked 18-hour days following the storm, restoring as much power as they could. The electric workers were not the only ones putting in extra hours, as Collins said the Department of Public Works employees, fire officials and police officers put in long hours as well. Collins said officers were out on the streets with chainsaws, chopping down trees in roads, and DPW crews were using plows to push the chopped stumps.
"That creativity shows that we are just thinking outside the box," he said.
Collins thanked council members for fielding phone calls from the public and volunteering their time to assist with residents in need. He also thanked the Kinnelon Office of Emergency Management volunteers, who maintained communication with the public through their Facebook page and helped coordinate the shelters that were set up at the schools.
"Organizationally, we're very fortunate to have the volunteers that we have," he said.
Councilman Andy SanFilippo praised the staff of the library, which has remained open and invited people in for warmth and Wi-Fi, as well.
"They stepped up to the plate and opened up for everyone," he said.