Jersey Central Power & Light's request for over $600 million from ratepayers is not sitting well with residents, many of whom lambasted the utility during a public hearing on the matter in Freehold.

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The utility is asking the Board of Public Utilities for the rate increase to repair infrastructure damage done by Superstorm Sandy and Tropical Storm Irene.

However, during the last two public hearing meeting in Freehold Wednesday, JCP&L which is owned by Akron, Ohio based First Energy, was criticized for their poor performance during the storms and their lack of updated infrastructure.

If approved, the proposed $603 million of the $630 million JCP&L spent on storm repair is asked to be funded by rate payers, and would increase bills by $4.44, based on a 650 kilowatt household usage.

Freeholder John Curley spoke during the event and was critical of the disrepair the utility had left it's infrastructure in. He noted that he conducted his own research into the matter and spoke with employees past and present, saying the company's operations are referred to as "patch and run" by past and present line workers.

"No rebuilt circuits in decades," said the Freeholder. "Since Three Mile Island, all major capital projects have been put on hold, and First Energy has taken money out of the Garden State and sent it to the state of Ohio."

Curley specifically noted the age of many of the substations and transformers JCP&L overseen throughout the state.

"Many of the substations which I visited are outdated, they were built in the 1930's. I was also told if you see dark gray transformers, they were also built in the 1930's. Light gray transformers were from the 1960's and if you see white pipe on a pole, it contains asbestos."

Reliability was a factor that many ratepayers complained about during the public hearing, specifically referencing power going out "whenever the wind blows."

Carl Anthony Cooper said because of his wife's medical condition requiring electricity, they have to invest in a gas generator because of what he claims are JCP&L frequent outages.

Senator Linda Greenstein (Cranbury-D) criticized the company for posting profits in excess of $90 million, but now asking for help in funding infrastructure.

"Where did all the money go? This makes me question, as well as the BPU, what investments in infrastructure JCP&L has been making in recent years."

Ratepayer Rona Sutton did not want the utility using the public as their own insurance policy.

"If they dipped into corporate profits instead of using ratepayers as an ATM machine, then maybe they would be more circumspect to the kind of service they give to us."

Greenstein noted the state already has the seventh highest utility costs in the country, she noted she didn't want that to increase further.

There were few supporters of the rate increase, all of whom did not stay for the entire meeting, which ran three hours.

Old Bridge Councilman Reginald Butler (who spoke as a private citizen), as well as the OEM coordinators of Manlapan and Sayerville spoke on behalf of the utility. All noted the utility had excellent response after the storms and is doing the best it can.

All of the public hearings are concluded, there is no word on when the BPU will reach a decision as to whether to approve the rate hike.