Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Wayne Demands Jcp&l Upgrades

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Wayne Demands Jcp&l Upgrades

Article excerpt

WAYNE -- Township officials are challenging a rate hike request by the electric utility that took weeks to restore local power after superstorm Sandy in an attempt to force the company to upgrade its power infrastructure.

The township wants Jersey Central Power & Light to do a systematic upgrade of its switching stations, transformers and wires throughout the township to prevent a repeat of the ordeal hundreds of residents who spent weeks in the cold and dark after Sandy. But the township attorney warned that no town or city to his memory has been able to force a utility to make system improvements.

It's also not certain whether the township would ever be allowed to intervene to contest JCP&L's rate hike request. That decision will be made by a state administrative law judge in Newark by the end of May, said Matthew Giacobbe, the township attorney.

The company asked the state Board of Public Utilities in a petition last month for a rate hike that would mean a $53.28 increase on the average annual utility bill, or a household consumption rate of 650 kilowatt hours per month. The company, a subsidiary of Ohio-based First Energy, serves about 1,400 customers on Wayne's western edge.

The utility's performance after Sandy frustrated local ratepayers and prompted township officials to attempt to push the company out of Wayne in favor of a different electricity provider. The township solicited signatures for an online petition, and hosted a town hall meeting to hear the stories of customers left without power for weeks after the October storm.

But Mayor Christopher Vergano said it became clear that forcing out JCP&L wasn't possible. The township decided instead to challenge the rate hike request to leverage system upgrades.

"We thought this is a better way to get JCP&L to address the horrible conditions after the last three storms," the mayor said.

In his affidavit to the utility board, Vergano said out-of-state crews working with township first responders commented about old, obsolete electrical-grid equipment throughout the township. …

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