At the recent meeting of the Summit Common Council residents and council members had a chance to hear from and question a Jersey Central Power & Light manager. Stan Prater, who handles Summit, spoke about service improvements and answered residents questions about power failures and repairs in light of last year's one-two-punch of Irene and the October snow storm.
City Manager Chris Cotter introduced Prater during the meeting, saying that it was one of the goals of council to improve communication with the utility company. Prater detailed the communications improvements JCP&L has made since last year, which includes improving electronic communication via email and the company website.
He said the company has undertaken a $200-million improvement project. Summit is served by four power substations, several of which flooded during last year's storm.
Prater, an area manager at JCP&L, said the company "replaced a transmission line out of Briant Park substation," among other repairs. Council members were concerned about what Councilwoman Nouris Portuondo referred to as "poor planning" on the part of the utility after it took several days to restore power to homes in Summit last year.
“We never planned for anything like this,” said Prater who also listed the priority with which power is restored to homes, hospitals and other city agencies after a mass outage.
Questions came in from residents during the council meeting. One resident in particular questioned what he said was JCP&L's outdated technology and equipment. "We are in line with industry standards," Prater said.
Another resident questioned council, asking for better communication with the community. "Nobody's telling us what to expect [during emergencies]," he said.
Prater reminded residents that it was important to call JCP&L first in the case of a power outage instead of the police or someone from council. In response to questions about burying power lines under ground instead of up near tree lines, Prater said it was impractical. "When you have an outage, an underground fault is very difficult to figure out," he said. "It would eliminate some outages from [falling] trees, but tear up infrastructure on people’s properties."
Council President Rich Madden later asked Prater to take resident questions outside. Several people followed him outside council chambers to continue asking about power outages an their concerns with the utility.
In other news at the Common Council meeting:
- Councilman Thomas Getzendanner had a brief exchange with council members who didn't want to publicly answer seven questions he had about finance and personnel resolution.
- Council voted in favor of a awarding the bid in the sale of 2 Walnut Street (the youth center) for $630,000. A sum nearly half of what at least one councilman expected the property was worth.
The council will hold a goal setting meeting next Tuesday at 7p.m. in the Whitman Community Room.