The Chatham Emergency Squad building at 45 Spring St. has been operating as a warming shelter since Tuesday for residents of the Chathams to come in, warm up and charge their electronics. Thus far, however, the resource seems to be only sparsely used.
Committee Member Bailey Brower, Jr. and his wife Nancy were at the squad building Wednesday morning. They came both to take advantage of the building's power (the Browers have been without power since Saturday) and to speak with any residents who come in.
Only three other people were there, besides squad members: Jim Novick, whose house is also still without power, and Lisa Broo and Arne Syversen, who are visiting relatives from Norway. The house they are staying in on Dale Drive has been without power since Saturday.
A sign-in sheet at the door had six names by noon. On Tuesday only eight people signed in. Many of those coming in to collect their charging mobile phones and other electronics were members of the emergency squad. One squad member left a pet reptile in the building, since the generator could power a light so the creature could warm up. Only one other woman, who declined to give her name, came in.
A Lack of Response
Novick and Brower said the JCP&L area manager has not returned phone calls from officials for several days. "I think that's a travesty, that in this big storm they don't have the common sense to have a public relations official returning phone calls," Brower said.
Borough Mayor Nelson Vaughan said his area manager has also not returned calls. "He promises to call and then never gets back to me," Vaughan said.
Both Hagner and Vaughan have put in multiple calls to the governor's office as residents, including themselves, pass the 96-hour mark without power in their homes.
"The Department of Public Works was told they'd get six crews from the state," Nancy Brower said. "This morning, six men showed up, not six crews."
"We have not had as much support from the DOT as we were led to believe," Hagner said. She said she has followed up with county freeholders and State Senator Tom Kean, and that JCP&L crews were at work Wednesday afternoon on Dale Drive, and other crews from the DPW and outside resources were at work on River Road and Fairmount Avenue.
"I was on the phone earlier in the day [with the governor's office] expressing our obvious frustrations that we aren't seeing the progress we have hoped for from JCP&L," Hagner said. Since Monday we have had no additional people with power.
"I think it's different than the hurricane," said Novick. "Even St. Barnabas is running on generator. That says something about how severe it is. Even this building is running on generators."
A document from the JCP&L website shows the utility company estimates 456 Chatham customers to have their power restored on Wednesday, 264 on Thursday and 46 on Friday. Including the 2,036 connections which the company estimates were restored on Tuesday, that makes 2,802 restorations in both the borough and township in four days.
"Hopefully that progress will lead to people having electricity, but we can't really say when people are going to get [power back.] ... There's still a lot of work out there to be done," Hagner said.
"Progress is very slow," Vaughan said. "I've asked JCP&L what's taking so long. Their answer to everything is, “We never anticipated anything of this magnitude.'”
The mayors have told JCP&L where the significant damage is in town, but the utility company prioritizes neighborhoods with the most customers without power to restore first, according to Ron Morano, a JCP&L media representative.
Township police officers have been dispatched into neighborhoods that have been without power for several days to relay information and make sure residents were alright.
Hagner and Vaughan said JCP&L still says power will be restored to 90 percent of Chatham by midnight Thursday, and 100 percent by midnight Friday. Homeowners are responsible for fixing any damaged meter pans.