Caldwell residents fed up by frequent power outages came face-to-face with PSE&G representatives Tuesday night in a town hall-style meeting arranged by the borough’s mayor.
More than 50 disgruntled customers of the utility company listened and asked questions for more than an hour in the gymnasium of the Caldwell Community Center as three employees of the utility company outlined a plan to improve service.
Regional Public Affairs Manager for Essex and Passaic Counties for PSE&G Everton Scott said trees are the root cause in the majority of outages and crews have already begun to work on more than 60 problem areas.
“We think if we execute our plan as we’ve laid out, we’ll see some relief,” Scott said, adding, “We can never make a commitment to no outages.”
Scott focused on the uptick in outages since severe weather storms like Tropical Storm Irene and the freak snowstorm of October 2011 struck New Jersey. Those storms were followed by Superstorm Sandy last October, which flooded the substation and downed an unprecedented number of trees and branches, leaving the Roseland Avenue area without power for nine days.
Scott said the repairs and replacement of damaged equipment after Sandy should have led to more reliability.
But residents asked why then did they lose power on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Some contended the area has had unreliable electric service for years, if not decades. Outages from flickers to ones lasting several hours are common, they said.
Virginia McAlinden said she has lived on Wooten Road for more than 30 years and that power outages in her neighborhood are nothing new.
“We are paranoid people. We live in fear,” she said. “We really do need another source of power."
McAlinden was one of several people to describe the power outages experienced by her and her neighbors to those associated with Third-world countries, and more than one person at the meeting suggested “seceding” from the current power circuit or turning to underground power lines.
Roseland Avenue residents are on the end of a circuit that begins in West Orange and winds through Livingston, Roseland and Essex Fells before ending in Caldwell.
Scott said he would discuss the possibility of switching circuits and get back to the mayor, calling another meeting with residents, if necessary. He said the high cost of underground lines could rule out that option.
Robert Hagglund, Division Forester for PSE&G, said he personally drove along the circuit and identified 61 problem areas. Hagglund said tree crews have already completed 14 locations and identified three more. He said he has “empowered” his crews to find additional problems.
While Hagglund was reluctant to give a completion date because of unpredictable factors such as weather, he said the end of February was his best guess.
After the trees on public property are taken care of, Hagglund said he would work with Essex Fells’s officials and property owners to remove trees on private land.
Housing on Roseland Avenue in Caldwell consists mostly of apartments and condominiums. There is a fire department and several businesses along the stretch of road.