Hornik: "I want the president and CEO of the company in Town Hall."
Hornik and the Town Council want JCP&L to answer residents about the long power restoration process.
Mayor Jon Hornik said he didn’t sleep much during Hurricane Irene, he was busy fielding complaints about loss of power and assessing damage for JCP&L around the township.
Tonight, Hornik and the town council are voting on a resolution to authorize a public forum for JCP&L representatives to address resident concerns.
“I think the Board of Public Utilities needs to investigate JCP&L and figure out why this was as big as it was,” Hornik said. “Calling it a catastrophic storm is not an answer that works. I want the president and CEO of the company in Town Hall, they owe it to us.”
Hornik activated the Office of Emergency Management before the storm, and set up contingency plans for shelter and communication through reverse 911, e-mail and the township website. The Public Works Department and Police Department were on call throughout the storm.
“I didn’t want it to be a ‘call me if you need me’ situation, I wanted everyone on call,” Hornik said.
But when over 7,500 people in the township were without power that weekend and into the following week, Hornik was on the phone withJCP&L almost every two hours, and fielding phone calls through Town Hall from angry, powerless residents.
JCP&L informed the mayor that power would be restored to all residents within a week to 10 days.
“That was completely unacceptable,” Hornik said.
Hornik said the problem with JCP&L’s system is that it operates from complaints, meaning the company does not know about outages, downed wires or downed trees until they care called by a customer.
Because of that, Hornik found himself driving around and reporting damage in the area to JCP&L from the ground, acting as a liaison between the company and residents.
“I believe it is just wrong,” he said. “For them to use administration for what I believe should be JCP&L’s job.”
Hornik said residents were calling Town Hall constantly.
“And I totally understand. They were looking for their local government to help,” he said.
However, in order for power to be restored, two substations needed to be put back online before downed wires were assessed and trees were untangled. That was all work that needed to be done by JCP&L before township or county public works could clear roads.
A downed tree on Route 520 proved to be a problem for the township. The county owns the road, but when county employees showed up to cut the tree, JCP&L had not yet cut wires. The two kept missing each other, until the Tuesday after the storm when Hornik made both parties meet him at the scene to get it cleared.
The township is currently assessing how much damages from the storm will cost. Overtime costs for have not yet been calculated, but storm repairs from flooding may cost more than $200,000. There is no estimated cost for bush pick-up yet.
The mayor and town council is looking to set minimum guidelines forJCP&L, including training a municipal employee to assess issues within the township and have the Department of Public Works clear debris and power lines without going through a middle man.
Hornik said, “[JCP&L] over-promised and under-performed.”