As if 2020 was not challenging enough, Tropical Storm Isaias lashed New Jersey on Aug. 4 to remind us the ongoing war against COVID-19 was not the only battle that would test our collective resolve.

Along with Isaias and its damaging winds came the expected power outages that impacted both our PSE&G and eternally frustrated JCP&L customers.

Let me know if you’ve heard this song before. Here it goes:

Public Service Electric and Gas did an exceptional job, not only with service restorations, but with communications. Jersey Central Power and Light? Well, we have filed suit against them for the second time since its horrendous response in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in 2011. I signed our legal complaint against on Aug.19, just moments after testifying in front of the NJ Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee and the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee. The committees met jointly to take testimony from invited guests—including management of JCP&L, Atlantic City Electric and PSE&G—on public utility emergency response and restoration of services after major storms such as Isaias.

JCP&L promised they would improve communication after Irene. They made the same vow following Superstorm Sandy in 2012, then again following the Derecho in June of 2013. Similar promises were heard in the wake of countless nor’easters, and again following the July 22, 2019 storm event which resulted in an expansion of our generator exchange program. Frankly, I have not seen any improvement from JCP&L whatsoever.

I asked the assembly to allow towns such as Robbinsville—those being served by two utility companies—to allow us to have a choice and switch to the one that is actually performing. If JCP&L cannot do the job within the very large footprint they maintain, perhaps we can take away some of that footprint. Give us the ability to have a choice. It is very frustrating as an elected official to have to tell people we have one very good working relationship here (with PSE&G) where homes have power and residents are kept properly informed, and an entirely different relationship over there (with JCP&L) where people have neither power, or a realistic timeline for when it will be restored.

We will certainly keep you posted on our progress.

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As for TV and internet service issues related to Optimum/Altice USA (formerly Cablevision), I know many of you would like us to take aim at them the same way we are taking on JCP&L.

Here is the difference: What we do not have right now is a comprehensive backup service to replace Optimum. We need to explore what we would do for a replacement if they were to be removed from Robbinsville. The difference with electric is we have a reliable company in PSE&G to fall back on. We don’t have that right now with Optimum because Verizon FiOS does not have the infrastructure to service our entire town. Plus, FiOS is slowly being phased out in favor of 5G service and we are told that could take a while.

What I don’t want to do is get Optimum out of town, and then we go from a very poor service provider to no provider at all. While this may be frustrating and not what people want to hear, we need to move forward with a real plan. I sent a separate letter to the BPU August 20 asking it to investigate the service and billing complaints leveled by hundreds of our residents. We have to have a plan. What I cannot do with so many people working from home and students using remote learning is make a rash decision that could make things worse.

We have heard you loud and clear…and we are working on it.