Freeholder Director Vicari Has “Productive Meeting” With JCP&L Reps; Discusses Rate Increase And Preparations For Future Storms

Calling it a “very productive session,” Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari met for nearly 90 minutes with representatives from Jersey Central Power & Light on Friday to discuss the utility’s planned rate increase as well as its response to future storms.

“On behalf of the people of Ocean County I felt it was important to meet one-on-one with utility officials so they would have a clear understanding of the concerns that we have,” Vicari said.

During the meeting, power company officials explained the need for the increase, talked about JCP&L’s response to the August tropical storm and explained the steps the utility is taking to prevent future extended outages.

For example, JCP&L is investing nearly $1 million in Ocean County alone for the installation of “tripsavers,” a type of automated fuse that can drastically cut outage times.

“In many cases an outage that would have required us to dispatch a line crew and could take 2 to 3 hours to repair can be automatically fixed in a matter of seconds,” said John J. Meehan, JCP&L Area Manager for External Affairs.

Meehan said that following the tropical storm, JCP&L replaced more than 82 miles of wiring.

“We learned a lot from Super Storm Sandy,” he said. “Our work was done much faster following this more recent storm.”

Vicari said he was satisfied with the utility’s explanation.

“It’s clear they are working on solutions,” Vicari said. “It’s important that our residents affected by the summer’s outages are aware that JCP&L is responding to our concerns.”

Vicari said he is the county’s “consumer advocate” and has listened carefully to the complaints lodged against JCP&L.

“These outages were especially difficult for our senior citizens,” he said. “I have made it clear to all of the utilities that serve Ocean County that they must do better.”

In September Vicari testified before the state Board of Public Utilities against a nearly $10 per month rate increase requested by JCP&L.

The BPU later granted an increase 50 percent less than the utility had asked for and required that JCP&L conduct a full audit of its operations.

“I believe the BPU decision was a win for our residents,” Vicari said.

After the ruling, JCP&L also agreed to postpone the increase for one full year.

Vicari said he plans to meet with the utility’s representatives again prior to the start of the 2021 summer tourist season.

“We’re going to do this twice a year,” he said. “It’s good for us to hear directly from company officials and it gives me a chance to bring our residents’ questions and concerns directly to JCP&L.”

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