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Bivona: Orange & Rockland Not 'Up to the Task'

"The response [from Orange & Rockland] is slow and the results are not good enough," the mayor told residents Saturday.

Nearly a full week after Hurricane Sandy sank households across New Jersey into darkness, many Franklin Lakes residents are frustrated over being still without power.

Mayor Frank Bivona wrote to borough residents Saturday in an effort to assuage worries that utility companies were ignoring their needs here.

"I have heard from many of you and I understand what you're going through since I live in the same community, without power, heat and water," Bivona wrote in a town-wide email blast. "I can assure you that the borough and many, many volunteers are working very hard for you day and night. 

"As for Orange & Rockland, many of you feel that they have not been up to the task," Bivona said. "I would agree. The response is slow and the results are not good enough."

Bivona said that despite complaints that O&R crews were not in town, he assured residents that they were.

"Mostly they don't say O&R on the truck because they are hired tree service companies — but they have been here clearing wires and cutting trees," Bivona said. "And they have been doing work on transmission lines and sub-stations outside of town as evidenced by the fact that about 32 percent of our residences now have power, up from less than 10 percent."

Last week Bivona told township residents that 75 percent of homes were without power.

O&R told residents that all homes in Franklin Lakes would be back online by Nov. 11 at 11:30 p.m., Bivona said, but "recently, we see these dates are changing to more specific restoration times for various areas. I'm not sure if we can rely on these estimates but they may be a good indication of progress."

The mayor also said that O&R said they would attempt to restore power to borough schools before Monday, but gave no guarantees.

"Based on past storms I can tell you that areas where there is heavy damage to poles and wires will take much longer than those with power service underground," Bivona said. 

Residents have expressed concern about the level of pressure borough officials are putting on utility companies, but the mayor said there were constant calls and emails being sent to O&R "at the highest levels to ensure they understand our priorities," Bivona said.  

"We have also contacted several levels of public officials throughout New Jersey for assistance," he added. "Many neighboring towns are competing for allocations of limited resources as well. We will continue our constant push for restoration until everyone has power back."

Gov. Chris Christie released the restoration plans for New Jersey's three primary power companies Saturday in an effort to provide New Jerseyans greater transparency and certainty about the progress of restoration in their towns.

Orange & Rockland, however said it wasn't asked to provide its timetable to state officials.

Nearly 85 percent of nearby Wyckoff was without power as temperatures expected to dip into the 30s Saturday, and PSE&G had no time line for restoring service to more than 2,000 customers, according to the work schedule.

"I understand your frustration and we are all doing what we can to make this recovery period as short and painless as possible," Bivona said. "Please come by one of our comfort stations to see us if you want to talk further or feel free to call me."

The mayor also praised first responders and those working throughout the week to remove and facilitate removal of obstructions around Franklin Lakes.

"Our police have done a terrific job, risking their lives responding to emergencies during the storm," Bivona wrote. "Now they are guiding repair crews through town to trouble spots. Our fire and ambulance volunteers have been a true blessing and have responded day and night to countless calls. Our CERT volunteers have manned comfort stations in two areas providing much needed amenities to residents. Our DPW staff has been incredible, working in our roads with heavy equipment — clearing over 50 roads."

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor Joseph M. Gerace at Joseph.Gerace@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Joseph M. Gerace November 04, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Also, practically, a lot of families left their towns because of power outages. What will they do if their children are supposed to be back at school but they're without power and staying at a hotel a dozen miles away?
Jennifer L November 04, 2012 at 10:54 PM
I've lived on Wellington for 15 years. We have and always lose power for extended periods of time, for every weather event. It has become an acceptable existence. Wyckoff needs to step up and realize that although we fall very low on the Orange and Rockland list of priority, we pay our taxes to the township, and make our timely payments to a service provider that never, ever considers our needs for power restoration. This has to stop. Release the equipment you own, (Orange and Rockland) and let us join a network that will include us with the greater population in terms of priority.
Jeanne B November 05, 2012 at 12:27 PM
O&R website lies. Outage map does not show all outages reported. My family is in Franklin Lakes and has reported both on phone and online as have neighbors but are not shown on map. Nearest reported on map are 1/2 a mile away and insufficient numbers to cover all customers in area. Cynical way to deal with customers!
PO'd November 08, 2012 at 04:21 PM
It is now Thursday November 8th, and we on Berkeley Drive are still without power. We are being told that power will be restored by Saturday November 10 at 11pm. (13 days without power or heat). UNACCEPTABLE. The Sicomac school children went back to school yesterday afternoon at Washington School. Putting kids in a different school for one half day with no books or supplies is unproductive. So why is there still no power at Ramapo HS and Sicomac School? Shouldn't these be a priority? Our section of town often loses power and we are always among the last to come back on line. I realize this was a catastrophic event but O&R is unresponsive and overall, unable to provide proper service. Five years ago, no one had a back up generator. Because of several major outages in the past couple of years, many neighbors invested in portable back up generators which in this case do not provide heat and require constant refueling. Now we're all talking about laying out 10 grand or so for a full power restoration generator. What recourse do we have? Can we refuse to pay our bill? No. Will they provide us with generators? No. It's up to our elected officials to KICK SOME ASS.
stephen November 18, 2012 at 12:33 AM
ive never seen people cry and complain so much.

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