Which utility is best? Ask mayor of NJ town split by PSE&G and JCP&L
ROBBINSVILLE — What does it look like after a storm in a town that is serviced by both of the state's largest electric utilities?
According to Mayor David Fried, who gets a front-row seat to the work being done by PSE&G as well as the much-maligned JCP&L: "Frankly, it's like watching the Yankees play a Little League team."
Tropical Storm Isaias on Tuesday left more than a million New Jersey residents without power. Of those, nearly 1,000 live in this Mercer County township.
Fried, whose tenure as mayor has been marked by battles with Jersey Central Power & Light after major storms, says a lack of meaningful information from the utility has always been a problem.
"Essentially, the information I received is 'there was a storm,'" he complained Wednesday on Facebook.
Fried on Thursday said that the municipality would consider taking legal action against the utility, something that the township did after Hurricane Irene in 2011.
Statewide, JCP&L often struggles to restore power as quickly as PSE&G, which covers a more urban territory along the Route 95 corridor while JCP&L has to deal with more leafy rural and coastal expanses. While PSE&G expected almost all of its customers to be restored by Friday, JCP&L said it could take them until Tuesday.
Fried said storm damage on Tuesday was equal in both service areas.
"PSE&G has great communication. We know where they're going to be, they work with us, they work with our public works, they work with our police department so that we can coordinate our efforts and make sure we understand what they're doing," Fried said.
With JCP&L, he said, it's the complete opposite.
Good information from PSE&G allows the township through its generator exchange program to get generators to residents who are going to take the longest to be restored.
"With JCP&L we don't really have good information so it makes it difficult to help those who are going to be out for a longer period of time," Fried said. "Certainly we want to focus on those who have wells. Right now in this heat they don't have water so it's a very difficult situation for a lot of people."
Fried believes that PSE&G is better equipped because it is more of a local company with more workers who understand New Jersey.
"JCP&L brings people in from all over the country and it just takes time for those folks to learn system, to learn the roads, to learn where everything is," he said. "A lot of our names in Mercer County — if you go to 'Union Street 08691' [on an online map] you could wind up in Robbinsville or you could wind up in Trenton," Fried said.
PSE&G was founded in 1903 and remains headquartered in Newark. JCP&L is owned by Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnegry and serves parts of Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania as well as New Jersey. JCP&L's then-parent company GPU, which was based in Morristown, was acquired by FirstEnegry in 2001.
A meeting with mayors on Thursday did not go much better in terms of getting solid information from JCP&L, Fried said.
Fried said that after a poor response following the August 2011 hurricane, the township filed a Board of Public Utilities complaint against JCP&L. The utility settled with the promise that it would improve their infrastructure and communication.
"We've given them a significant amount of chances over the years and really nothing has improved," Fried said Thursday. "So at this point it's time for us to refile and ask for the BPU to consider allowing us to have another provider to manage our town. It's extremely unfair to our residents to witness first hand that one half of the town is being served very well while the other half of the town continues to languish."
It would also benefit JCP&L to give its territory to PSE&G as it would allow them to concentrate on towns where they are the sole provider.
"Hopefully they can do a better job and hopefully from our perspective we can allow the company that's doing a good job to expand a little bit more and continue to do a great job for us," Fried said.