Editor's note, 4:55p.m.: Mayor DeLuca asked that the following statement be added:
“I want to thank Governor Codey for calling the meeting and Ralph LaRossa for participating. This has been a difficult time for all of us and my frustration is not with Mr. LaRossa but with a system of communication and coordination between local governments and the utility company that I think needs a major overhaul. The article reflects my accounting of the meeting and any comments should not be attributed to Mr. LaRossa or any other meeting participant.”
Maplewood's Mayor Vic DeLuca, South Orange Village President Alex Torpey and leaders of other Essex County municipalities devastated by Hurricane Sandy finally got to tell PSE&G -- in person -- what they thought of the utility company's performance.
The meeting, which was held in West Orange, was called by Former Governor Richard Codey; Assembly Members John McKeon and Mila Jasey also attended.
PSE&G's President, Ralph LaRossa, attended, along with local representatives and the Vice President of Government Affairs.
"I laid into them about the lack of communication and coordination throughout the recovery," said DeLuca. "They have overpromised and underdelivered."
DeLuca, who spoke after the Mayor of Livingston, told LaRossa, "Your system is broken."
DeLuca said that Maplewood's Department of Public Works (DPW) is responsible for cleaning up trees and PSE&G is responsible for clearing downed wires, which has led to a "blame game" where the township has "no control" over when work crews are assigned and when work gets done.
"We still have trees down with wires on them," said DeLuca, "that we can't touch." In particular, he mentioned one situation on Van Ness Court that is affecting 88 apartments. The DPW is awaiting a call from PSE&G on when they can remove the tree.
Meanwhile, DeLuca said there was a "major" restoration of power Tuesday night to areas of Maplewood, leaving roughly 1,000 customers still to be restored, down from over 9,000 at the beginning of the storm.
DeLuca said that another "fairly substantial" number of residences should be restored today -- despite the Nor'easter pelting the region today and Thursday.
Currently, work is being done on Oakview, two blocks in from Prospect, and on Parker Road to replace power lines and install new poles. That work is expected to take place today, said DeLuca. Roughly 50 customers are affected on Oakview, and a substantial number of people are affected on the Parker Road issue, including residents of Union, Warren, Essex, Garfield and Burr Road, as well as Clinton School.
"Most of the area above the Village is lit," DeLuca said, though there are some pockets still out.
Torpey also spoke, said DeLuca, echoing much of DeLuca's assessment of the company's poor communication and also focusing on the need for smart technology and using social media to better communicate with customers.
"We gave it to them pretty good," said DeLuca, who noted that Codey, McKeon and Jasey were "right there with us."
DeLuca said he told LaRossa, referring to work crews: "I'm getting more information from people from Texas, Mississippi and Pennsylvania than from PSE&G. It's horrible."