Aberdeen Residents Enraged with Ongoing Power Outages

Concerns over break-ins, looting, and a lack of communication and transparency from JCP&L expressed at public meeting Thursday night.

Ten days without power has meant ten days without heat, hot water, lights, internet, hot meals, clean laundry and a feeling of security for Aberdeen residents, particularly in Strathmore and Cliffwood Beach.

The powerless reached their boiling point Thursday night at a public information meeting in Aberdeen, after most of them spent their tenth day in the dark. What frustrated them the most, however, wasn’t ten days of discomfort – it was the ten days with little to no communication concerning the power outages.

One by one, residents stood at the microphone placed in the courtroom at town hall, venting their anger and demanding answers from local officials at the dais.

Frustrations Rise with JCP&L

Noticeably missing from the dais where Chief John Powers, Deputy Chief Richard Derechailo, Township Manager Holly Reycraft, and Department of Public Works Director Bob Brady sat, were the two representatives from Jersey Central Power and Light who declined to attend the meeting.

Their refusal to attend did not shock those at the meeting, however it did offend them.

“I look at the absence of the two JCP&L representatives here and it tells me what they think of the people of the town and the town council,” said a vocal resident.

The lack of communication throughout the storm and its aftermath has been, according to most residents, unacceptable.

“JCP&L is garbage. They treat us like garbage,” one man at the meeting said. “We’re out of power for a week with no information.”

“Seven to ten days. That’s all we ever hear, is seven to ten days. For some of us, it’s day eleven,” he added.

Officials Share Frustration with JCP&L

Chief Powers told residents that JCP&L had given them little information in regards to where they would be working, when they would be working, and when power would be returned to specific areas.

Thursday night, shortly before the meeting, Powers was able to get information on the next grid the crews intended to work on and which streets that included.

According to the area manager, crews planned to work on Beach Drive, Beachwood Way, Beverly Drive, Cliffwood Avenue, Elmwood Place, Garden Place, Jersey Avenue, Malden Drive, Moore Place, North Concourse, Pinehurst Drive, Prospect Avenue, Riverdale Drive, South Concourse, Sherwood Drive, Center Street, Sunset Avenue, Sylvan Way, Twilight Way and Wayside Drive on Friday. Next, they intended to work on Arbordale Drive, Seawood Drive, Greenwood Avenue, Marshall Concourse and additional work on the Route 35 and Amboy intersection.

“I said, ‘You’ve got to give me an “I” somewhere in this alphabet,’” said Powers, referring to the I section in Strathmore.

Township attorney Mark DiPisa emphasized that JCP&L has been giving the township little to no information, and the information they have received was not necessarily up to date or accurate.

“The communication with these companies is horrible; they are not transparent. The same troubles and struggles that you have with JCP&L, this town has with JCP&L. The reason is they answer to no one and that is a problem. They have a monopoly on us,” said DiPisa.

Mayor Fred Tagliarini said the township would continue to place pressure on JCP&L to repair electrical infrastructure the way they have been pressuring New Jersey American Water to repair water mains.

“We will not rest about JCP&L,” Mayor Fred Tagliarini repeatedly assured the packed courtroom.

Safety Concerns

Residents of Cliffwood Beach who live along the Raritan Bay not only lost power, but many also suffered damage to their homes from the severe flooding.

Terrified of burglars, one couple chose not to evacuate after two men broke into their Beach Drive home while they were preparing for the storm.

“The night before the storm, my house was being robbed while I was in it,” said Katherine McPeek, a resident of Beach Drive. “They had a crow bar. My house was boarded so it looked like no one was home, sand bags the whole thing. And I see them in my bathroom downstairs. They were already in my garage.”

Waiting out the storm, Katherine and her husband witnessed the storm surge first hand.

“We stayed, when the first floor was full of water and water was bubbling up from the second floor coming in. The surge, the Army Corps said it was almost thirteen feet high. We were waiting, we were afraid the house was going to cave in, so we were on the back deck huddling,” she said.

Another Beach Drive family returned after the storm to find their home without power and damaged by surge of water that Sandy brought with her. Despite having no heat, they remain in order to protect their neighborhood from daytime gawkers and nighttime burglars.

“We had gawkers left and right. It was already a mess and then we have to deal with this issue. We have streets that go down South Concourse, you turn left or right, you go nowhere, but we had cars coming through,” he said.

“People are leaving their homes. They’re wide open for people to come into. We had two houses broken into,” he continued, questioning why the police department did not block off the end of South Concourse which only leads to residential streets that are dead ends and were evacuated.

Strathmore residents shared similar concerns, relaying to local officials that they have had homes and cars broken into and have seen few patrol cars monitoring their neighborhood.

“I can tell you the reason that I have stayed is because I am scared of the number of break-ins in the area,” one resident said.

Powers told residents that officers had been instructed to patrol the township actively, particularly the areas that were still without power.

Power Outages Common in Aberdeen

The Strathmore community pointed out that they understand the damage to the region was extensive, however it doesn’t take a hurricane to cause an outage in the aging development.

“We’ve never lost power for less than one week. It’s 2012, not 1912,” said one Strathmore woman.

Another woman from the C section implored the township to put real pressure on JCP&L. During Irene, she and her husband lost power at their home for five and a half days and during Sandy, they were in the dark for nine days.

“What I want to know is, what can be done or what will be done to deal with the fact that the systems are antiquated and that might be part of the reason we always lose power?” she said. “Why is Aberdeen constantly, constantly forgotten and neglected? We’ve lived here for ten years and we’re always the first to lose power and the last ones to get it back and I have had enough. I want to know what is going to be done.”

As of 5 p.m. Friday night, eleven days after the storm, the number of power outages in Aberdeen was 775.

Barzillai November 10, 2012 at 04:49 AM
Powers can say what he likes, but I saw few police cars patrolling Cliffwood Beach at night post-Sandy. And the gawkers and would-be burglars had free reign during the day. I saw one man surveying house after house on my block, talking into a head piece as he assessed each one. Pick up trucks and panel trucks paraded through the neighborhood. I told my boss that I couldn't come to work because of possible looting. He was surprised and I had to explain that we didn't have marauding crowds picking our houses apart but a stead stream of strangers wandering our streets. It was truly scary, given the economy and the rash of burglaries we'd already been suffering even before we became so vulnerable. Powers has a lot of nerve saying he had us covered. He should be fired.
MaryAnn November 10, 2012 at 03:37 PM
What amazed and angered me at that meeting was the lack of passion and outrage on behalf of the citizens of Aberdeen by those officials on the dais. And their lack of information was beyond belief. It was apparent that the Mayor could care less as he did not even show his citizens the courtesy and respect they deserve as he wandered in and out of the meeting looking bored to death. Mr. Mayor, it's time to pack it in and hand the job over to someone who actually cares. I have no faith that the Mayor or anyone on his council will ever pursue the JCPf&L issues and urge all residents of Aberdeen to follow through with Congressman Pallone and Governor Christie.
Concerned Citizen November 10, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Congressman Pallone was no better than the Mayor. He was there for FaceTime, staying for about 45 minutes. Nodding after a few people spoke and then leaving.
Pat November 10, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Concerned Citizen, that's exactly what the majority of citizens of District 6 deserve. They vote him back in, one term after another. By the time the next election rolls around, all will have forgotten this and vote him in yet again.
SS November 10, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Despicable poorly planned poorly managed poorly coordinated overwhelmed undermanned under resourced while taxes are collected biils are paid and way too much indifference Why???????
George Dzurina November 11, 2012 at 03:10 AM
I think the following statement from the above article really says alot about the leadership of Aberdeen Township. "Noticeably missing from the dais where Chief John Powers, Deputy Chief Richard Derechailo, Township Manager Holly Reycraft, and Department of Public Works Director Bob Brady sat, were the two representatives from Jersey Central Power and Light who declined to attend the meeting." It is real easy to manage a department under normal circumstances. At times like this I would expect at least the Chief of Police to take an active role with so many residents experincing these types of hardships. This is when the Chief of Police - John Powers who makes over $140,000 a year to provide the leadership that we should expect from our highly paid public officials. I guess he was probably to busy sitting in his hot tub or warm house probably with a generator from FEMA. I would ceratinly expect that either Chief John Powers or the Deputy Chief Richard Derechailo would of attended this function. Aberdeen has these two highly paid Chief's and neither can find the time to attend when the residents really needed them to provide the LEADERSHIP that I would certainly expect from a Chief of Police.
George Dzurina November 11, 2012 at 03:45 AM
This situation shows that Municipality's are not equipped or lack the knowledge to take action. This is a real problem here in NJ with over 520 municipalities. This means we have 520 Police Chiefs and Mayors who are not capable of providing the support when the public really needs it most. I read in the APP that Chief Power's stated he needed more PO's and that his 33 officiers was not enough. I think Chief Powers needs to reavaluate his departments work schedule of 4 days on and 4 days off. I used to think that 40 hours per 7 days was the standard work week ...I guess since Aberdeen has plenty of money and the taxes are so low we can afford to have the police work less than a 40 hour work week. The Aberdeen Police Force FULL TIME work week is 35 hours when we take into account their work schedule..I guess that also gives the PO's the ability to work plenty of OVERTIME. All the Municipalities here in NJ would benefit from some type of regionalization. This would enable each County to have the resources when they are needed most. I think Cheif Powers needs to start thinking more about how HE can make HIS department provide the services that HE is responsible for providing.
George Dzurina November 11, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Let's take this storm as an example as if we had a County Police Force the County Chief could of pulled the resources from the inland area's which would of had the resources readily available to provide the support we need in times of crisis. I hope Super Storm Sandy opens the eyes of all the residents of both Matawan & Aberdeen to realize that we need to start thinking "Out of Box" and we can just keep adding more resources and increasing taxes. We have all the resources we need they are just sitting behind desks. Between Matawan & Aberdeen we have (6) Superior Officiers for a total of around 50 patrolmen. If these departments where not paid by our taxes and run like a more professional or privately owned BUSINESS we would certainly not have UPPER MANAGEMENT types at a ration of greater than 1 for 10 subordinates. This is a ROOT CAUSE of why New Jersey has the highest taxes in the country !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Chelsea Naso (Editor) November 11, 2012 at 03:57 AM
@George Dzurina - I would just like to clarify two things. When Chief Powers stated he made a request and was denied because other towns were in more need, he was referring to a request for equipment not personnel. Also, the sentence quoted from this article was stating that the public officials were in attendance but the JCP&L representatives were not.
Barzillai November 12, 2012 at 04:58 AM
Chief Powers told The Independent that his officers were busy handling the uncontrolled intersections along Route 34 and Route 35 and protecting people in Cliffwood Beach, but I saw none of that. Maybe they were busy doing just that, but it wasn't evident to citizens. Seems to me that the police put cones and buses in the intersections on Route 35 and had nothing more to do with them for over a week. Did anyone see cops manning the Cliffwood Avenue or Amboy Avenue intersections? I doubt it. I didn't see cops patrolling Cliffwood Beach at night or in the evenings. For him to say that they doubled their presence is just fancy. I can't believe it happened. He says he instructed his officers to run their emergency lights so people would be reassured to their presence. It didn't happen. What sort of nonsense is this?


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