An official of Jersey Central Power & Light came to Fair Haven’s borough council meeting last night to explain why the power keeps going off when — you guessed it — the power went off. Twice.

Then, about halfway through a grilling of JCP&L area manager Jim Markey by Fair Haven officials came word that a thunderstorm had also knocked out power at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, leaving about 600 people attending an awards ceremony in the auditorium in darkness.

Markey had come to explain why at least six power failures have struck different parts of Fair Haven since June 7. It just so happened that a thunderstorm was raging during the meeting’s first half hour, leading to two brief blackouts.

The second blackout — about a minute long — prompted Mayor Mike Halfacre to call for a brief recess until the power was restored.

The light-flickering power surges almost seemed like a teaser for Markey’s presentation, which Halfacre had announced on his blog and which had been advertised on a marquee outside the borough hall. About 15 residents turned out.

As a first step toward restoring confidence in JCP&L, company engineers will conduct a thorough reliability review and analysis of he events of the past 10 days, Markey told the town leaders.

The results of that analysis will then be shared with other JCP&L officials so they can work out an action plan, Markey added.

As to a timeline when corrective action would occur, Markey indicated that such a schedule would be worked out at a later date.

In addition, Markey promised borough administrator Mary Howell that her request for information regarding the long history of weather-related power outages in the borough as well as the company’s “thermovision reports” would come this week.

The thermovision reports are the utility’s written studies showing where in the borough “hotspots” such as trees, power lines or other triggers for fires are physically located, explained Howell, noting that she has requested company reports many times over several years without ever receiving them. (Here’s a JCP&L press release with a little more info about thermovision technology: Download 20070705_jcpl_conducting_thermovision_inspections.pdf)

Some of the more recent power failures, a daily happening in some parts of the borough during the heat wave that scorched the area between June 7 and June 10, caused those hotspots to flare up and trees to catch fire, Howell told Markey.

The blackouts resulted because higher demands for electric to cool homes on the hotter days led to failed transmissions between the borough’s main power source and its Ridge Road substation, and because of problems distributing that energy to homes and businesses, Markey told officials.

However, Halfacre, who along with other town officials related stories of losing power during hot weather and thunderstorms, asserted that the outages happened due to a systemwide failure. He called upon Markey to keep the council informed about the findings of utility engineers’ analysis and to provide a timeline for changes.

“Our main concern is with follow-through,” Halfacre told Markey. “We are going to hold your feet to the fire.”

Halfacre also expressed disappointment that JCP&L officials had bailed out of a meeting originally scheduled for today in Fair Haven at which the borough’s three state legislators were to meet with town leaders and utility representatives to assess the situation.

That meeting, which was to include State Senator Jennifer Beck, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon and Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, has not been rescheduled, Halfacre said.

JCP&L officials had indicated that they were working on a solution and did not believe the meeting with the trio of state leaders was necessary, he said.

For now, Fair Haven will continue to record all power failures lasting more than an hour that occur in any part of this borough of more than 6,000 residents, Halfacre promised.

Any homes or businesses wanting to file claims due to lost food or damaged appliances due to the blackouts, can contact JCP&L’s loss line at 1-800-662-3115.

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