Residents expressed both gratitude and disappointment about Scotch Plains’ response to Superstorm Sandy at the Dec. 17 town forum. Some residents presented the township with brief thank you remarks once at the microphone, while others were visibly shaken up at how the township responded following the storm.
Once the Office of Emergency Management Coordinator, Brian Mahoney and representatives from PSE&G, FEMA and the Small Business Administration had concluded their remarks, Mahoney opened up the floor for questions, comments, compliments and criticisms from the public.
Several residents from Pheasant Lane were in the audience, one of which, Suzanne, took to the microphone to voice her displeasure with the PSE&G and the township.
Suzanne asked the representatives from PSE&G why it took six days for the company to remove one power line, so that the township could remove one pine tree.
She added that there were several trees blocking her driveway, which were unable to be reached since Pheasant Lane was blocked off from any access, including emergency vehicles.
Jack Bridges of PSE&G responded to Suzanne’s question by explaining the crews worked from the largest arteries outward in order to restore power to the largest number of customers first.
“I understand your street being blocked, a cul-de-sac, you’re a very important customer, every customer is important, but that was not going to rise up to the priority at the time,” he said. “We weren’t in the position to clear a tree from individual homes or individual streets, it’s just where we were at that point.”
Suzanne continued by asking the township how Pheasant Lane residents can be assured that this safety issue will not occur again.
“This Hurricane Sandy event underscores the fact that Pheasant Lane and Sleepy Hollow Lane appear to be an afterthought and are always the last to have power restored, leaves collected, snow removed or patrolled by police.”
Mahoney responded by telling Suzanne the township had the same issue on several of the streets within Scotch Plains and that it is a problem they are willing to address. He said in terms of emergency response, they would get there even if they had to bring the hoses down the street and climb over the trees.
“Due to the sheer devastation from this storm and the amount of damage that they were faced with, unfortunately there was a lot of areas that had to wait,” Mahoney said. “We did our best under the circumstances.”
Debbie Gray, along with Suzanne, said when she and neighbors called PSE&G several days after the storm, the person on the other end of the line told them that they were not aware of their power outage.
When Suzanne brought up this issue in one of her questions, she received many claps of agreement from other residents in attendance.
Both Eileen Leahey and Jack Bridges of PSE&G took the information about the call centers and told the residents it is something they will definitely work to improve, so that they systems have an accurate understanding of homes without power.
Locust Avenue resident, Joanne, was visibly upset that Mayor Mary DePaola and the council had not responded to her phone calls or letters, she also said that township manager, Henry Underhill responded to her asking if the trees she asked to be removed were hers.
“To put in writing that you are questioning whether these are our trees is absurd, we had to pay Vinny Milano to remove them,” she said. “They are questioning the trees as if I’m pulling in trees from Plainfield”
Joanne held up photos of a large tree on her front lawn and noted that no one has responded to her photos, phone calls or letters since Dec. 7. She also stated that the front of her home looks like a bomb went off.
“You may be in disagreement with me, but call me back I think it’s very unprofessional,” she said.
Mahoney apologized to Joanne and told her that the issue has been discussed and assured her that the professional staff will get back to her.
Turning to compliments, Eugene of Canterbury Lane addressed the microphone by saying he had a township tree fall into his house and that the wanted to thank the fine crew at the department of public works who were able to remove the tree without causing any further damage.
Debbie Gray also had a question that seemed to be on the mind of many residents about leaf pickup.
Kevin Ward of the department of public works said that crews are in the North section of the township and are starting to move between East 2nd Street and Route 22. He told her by the end of the week she should see movement in her area of Farley Lane.
An updated list of removal is available on the Township’s website.
Alex Smith of Martine Avenue thanked the township for the hard work they did following the storm. As did the rest of the residents who took the microphone at the meeting, even if those compliments were followed by complaints.
How do you feel PSE&G and the township handled the response to Sandy? Tell us in the comments.
To read the township and PSE&G’s responses to their measures taken following Hurricane Sandy, read