Residents dealt with long power outage

Staff Writer

JACKSON — It is never easy to be without power for days at a time. Food can go to waste, bathroom facilities are rendered useless, and other modern amenities are unavailable.

According to JCP&L’s Internet website, in the wake of Hurricane Irene on Aug. 28, there were 67 people still without electricity in Jackson as of noon on Sept. 2. A number of those people live off Freehold Road.

“My frustration was that we have lost power before, so we were prepared. It’s common in this area,” said Diane Schuldes, of Casey Lane. “But with kids needing to go to school this week, we’ve had no facilities.”

Diane and her husband, Matt Schuldes, lost power in their home on Aug. 28, along with the 18 other households on their street, when a utility pole on Freehold Road snapped during the storm. That caused the outage for Casey Lane, West Bird Village Road and East Bird Village Road.

In the days following the storm, the couple’s attempts to find answers as to why power was taking so long to be restored repeatedly came up empty.

Schuldes said she went to town hall to try to find out why restoring power was taking so long. The information she got was not enough, she said.

“The woman who was there was very nice, but she gave me a number that went directly to JCP&L’s power outage line,” Schuldes said. “She was very nice, but the office had no real solutions. I know the administration set up the [Jackson Liberty High School] shelter, and that was great, but it feels like since we are such a small part of town, we weren’t being seen.”

Calls to JCP&L also proved fruitless for the family, as the timeframe for power being restored was quoted as being anywhere from “that night to a couple days,” she said.

Shortly after alerting the Tri-Town News to the situation on Sept. 1, Matt Schuldes called back to say that a call to Jackson Councilman Michael Kafton produced a 500-gallon water buffalo tank full of potable water for Casey Lane. Residents from Casey Lane and the surrounding area had free access to the water.

“Within two hours of talking with Mike Kafton, there was a huge tank of water on my street and he came personally to talk to my wife,” Schuldes said.

The following morning, employees from JCP&L were on the scene fixing the damaged utility pole, he reported.

“Basically I just groveled, begged, to some contacts I have in JCP&L to get some guys out there to fix the power lines,” Kafton said. “That’s my job as an elected official, to look out for my residents.”

In the days following the storm, Kafton also worked with the operators of Retro Fitness at Jackson Crossing and Jackson Fitness Center on North County Line Road to allow residents who had no access to running water to shower at their facilities.

“I thought that was wonderful for two local businesses to do that and really step up to the plate to help the people of Jackson,” the councilman said.

By 3:30 p.m. Sept. 2, only five households remained without power, according to JCP&L.

“I feel that if Mike Kafton didn’t get involved, we wouldn’t be a priority,” Diane said. “I understand there’s going to be a hierarchy to getting things restored, but if that’s the case, just let us know so we can be better prepared.”

Township Council President Kenneth Bressi said meetings with various department heads were held to prepare for the storm and to deal with the aftermath.

“If [Kafton] requested the water buffalo for Casey Lane, that’s fine, but this has been a team effort 100 percent throughout the whole storm and afterward,” Bressi said.

Office of Emergency Management coordinator Barry Olejarz confirmed that it was Kafton’s call that prompted the Department of Public Works to relocate the water tank, although the first call from Kafton referred to a single house and not the entire street.

“John Doe Public could have called me. It doesn’t matter who it is; if we can help people, we will,” Olejarz said.

Mayor Michael Reina said officials dealt with the storm’s aftermath the best they could.

“We have no control over power, cable and water. Unfortunately, we also don’t have the means to supply generators,” Reina said.

Residents were referred to ShopRite on North County Line Road, which was providing bottled water and ice to those without power, courtesy of JCP&L.

The Jackson Police Department created a Facebook page on Aug. 30 to alert residents about any road closures as a result of the storm.

“The due diligence was done to provide the phone numbers,” Reina said. “If [residents have] any suggestions, please, we want them.”