The state Board of Public Utilities is planning to review electrical utility JCP&L’s response to the Feb. 14 ice storm that cut power to about 120,000 homes, in some cases for days. Many of those homes were in the Red Bank area.

At the moment, though, some factors appear to favor the “grade” the BPU will give the state’s second-largest utility, a BPU spokesman says in today’s Star-Ledger.

From the story:

One measure of success or failure is a comparison of a utility’s performance from storm to storm. By that measure, JCP&L seems to have done a better job than it did during a big summer storm in 2002, when 175,000 customers lost power.

In that case, it took the utility two days to restore service to 80 percent of its customers and five days to bring everyone back online.

“If you look at the raw stats for how many were out and how quickly they were put back in it, it’s a favorable comparison,” [spokesman Eric] Hartsfield said.

The article quotes a 70-year-old Red Bank woman whose condo was without power for four days, during which time the temperature in her home hovered at 40 degrees. Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna is also quoted, saying that JCP&L’s initial response to the storm was “fairly slow,” but picked up after he and other officials called to complain.

Menna’s larger concern mirrors one raised by the BPU three years ago: the age and condition of JCP&L’s utility poles, particularly in older neighborhoods. An audit commissioned by the BPU criticized the utility for making temporary repairs on broken poles and replacing them only when they became too unsafe to climb.

“Their infrastructure upgrade must be addressed in a more dramatic way,” Menna said. “Their poles are from the Johnson administration, and that’s Andrew Johnson.”

Also quoted at Tinton Falls Council President Brendan Tobin, who defends the utility for it’s dealing with a “phenomenal” storm, and Assemblyman Michael Pantner of Shrewsbury, whose own home was without electricity for 36 hours.

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