Valhalla, Towaco Residents Feel Ignored as Power Restoration Continues

JCP&L told township officials they would be working in the neighborhoods as residents kept fingers crossed.

Like many throughout New Jersey, some Montville residents in sections of Towaco and the Lake Valhalla community remained without power Thursday. 

Knowing neighbors throughout the township had already seen their power restored was frustrating, one said.

"It's hard to see other people's power coming back on and you've still got nothing," Lauren Trionfo, a Duynecrest Road resident, said.

Trionfo has been without power since 2 p.m. on Oct. 29. Her family was recently loaned a generator by a friend whose power was restored, but she said she has only been using it to heat up the house at night so that her family is warm enough to sleep there. She has been cooking meals on the grill, working at her friend's house, doing laundry at her boss' house and simply trying to make the best of 10 days without power.

"You don't realize how tiring and exhausting the experience is until you get to a point where all of a sudden, everything comes crashing down on you," she said.

Trionfo has lived in Towaco for 21 years and said she has never lost power for more than a single day.

"I don't know what happened this time, but it was catastrophic to some degree," she said. "And we were not even the center of that storm, so I can't imagine what it's like for those folks down the shore."

Marianne Hodulik, a Lake Valhalla resident, said she was expecting her neighborhood, on the far end of the lake, to be one of the last to regain power. Her home remained dark on Thursday, but she said the storm, itself, was what was most frightening.

"The night of the storm was really scary because we were essentially trapped at our house," she said.

Hodulik and her family attempted to leave the neighborhood to stay at her mother's home off of Changebridge Road.

"After packing up and heading out in the rain, we got about 100 feet up the road from our house only to find a big tree down in the middle of the street," she said. "So we had to turn back."

Hodulik said she slept in the kitchen that night "thinking it was the safest place in our house from the trees." The next day, Hodulik said she was impressed to see her neighbors get out their own chainsaws and begin chopping down the trees in the roads.

On Thursday, Hodulik said she saw utility workers on her street, but they would not make promises that power would be restored immediately.

"I'm crossing my fingers today is our lucky day!" she said.

Trionfo said she has felt heartwarmed by the kindness of others through the outage, but discouraged by what she described as a lack of communication from the power company. Township officials have described a similar frustration.

"Every time I called JCP&L, they would tell me that they knew about us. They had records of our calls, yet nothing happened," she said.

Ron Morano, spokesperson for JCP&L, was unavailable for comment Thursday.

If she had received a response, Trionfo said she may have felt better about her situation.

"Communication is a thing that can save everything. At least you feel like, 'Somebody knows about me and they're not ignoring me,'" she said. "Those things are not in place."

Susan Marinello, another Lake Valhalla resident, had her power restored Wednesday after being out for more than a week. But, unlike Trionfo, Marinello said the long-lasting outage was not so unusual for the area.

"In the 22 years that I have lived in Lake Valhalla, I have been without power for three days or more about 15 times. In general, this area of town loses power about once a week for some period of time," she said.

Marinello also said she has called every level of government and JCP&L directly, but that her calls have gone unanswered. She did speak to a JCP&L representative who, she said, did not specifically answer her questions.

"I spoke with JCP&L and they read a script. When I asked them specifically about the nor'easter, they had no answer in the script," she said. "The information they put out is very general. They're not really saying what parts of town, and what, they're working on."

But Marinello said her family made the best of being without power when it was gone and even hosted a Halloween party last week in the dark.

"We're having a good time with it because we can't be unhappy," she said.

Read all Montville Patch Tropical Storm Sandy coverage here.

Patricia Plishka November 08, 2012 at 09:08 PM
START CALLING PEOPLE! THESE ARE NUMBERS COLLECTED FROM GOOGLE SEARCH OF COPORATE DIRECT DIAL NUMBERS TO FIRST ENERGY EXECUTIVES! CALL EVERYONE AT FIRST ENERGY AND TELL THEM WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH!! 330-384-5808 330-384-5500 330-384-5100 330-384-4901 330-384-3859 330-384-4580 330-384-5814 330-384-5022 330-384-5742 330-384-5375 330-384-5821 330-384-2454 330-384-5022 330-384-5806 330-384-5247 330-384-4580
Bob November 08, 2012 at 09:25 PM
I called the first number. They promptly transferred me to a First Energy "customer advocate" line that went directly to voice mail.
Emma Pompeo November 08, 2012 at 09:28 PM
EMMA POMPEO I would like to request a meeting with the Montville Township Committee and the JCP&L executive that handles Montville's account. Please reply if you would be interested in attending this meeting. The purpose will be: 1. Why there is no communication between JCP&L and the Township 2. Who takes care of removing the trees that knock down the power lines (I sent an email to the mayor and he did not respond to my question) in order for JCP&L to work on the power lines that are down? 3. The following questions will be directed only to the township committee: What is their role when we have this kind of situation? How do they communicate to the residents? If you have other questions that you would like to add to the list feel free to add them. The only way we can get something done, is by getting together as a community and demand more from the township committee who have been appointed by the Montville residents.
Hypothermic In NJ November 08, 2012 at 09:44 PM
How does our township committee feel they have helped the people that are still without power? What is their role in these situations? What efforts did the township committee make to communicate and the information their residents needed from JCP&L? The residents still without power - have one simple question - when is our power coming back?
Patricia Plishka November 08, 2012 at 09:45 PM
I would love to attend a meeting like that. I thought I saw a meeting this Sat 9-12(?) but doubt any JCP&L people will be there. (Probably afraid of being hurt!) I just feel our town officials are impotent so other that hearing what you are saying, what are they gonna do? If we keep electing the same group of individuals voted in by the same people we will have the same old results.
Sue Marinello November 08, 2012 at 09:48 PM
I did finally get a response from Assemblywoman DeCroce's office. I asked for a resident, politician, expert, power company commission to review Montville -- in particular the parts of town that are often affected by power outages - to see how the infrastructure can be improved, as well as to review how extraordinary outages can be responded to more quickly. And I volunteered to work with them on this problem. I was told they would let me know if such an initiative could be organized. We'll see if I get a call.
Patricia Plishka November 08, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Good luck. Please let me know if you hear anything. I'd like to be included. We lose power 3+ times a year. I actually have a list of requirements from a JCP&L guy listing what improvement/updates it would take to reduce these outages, at least on my street. Trees that come down are another matter. But if they would just begin to put the lines underground someone would benefit. Maybe not us right away, eventually.
Sue Marinello November 08, 2012 at 10:20 PM
I have a list, as well, Patricia, and I think these are important point to review and investigate in order to prevent extended outages in the future. I will let you know if I hear anything. Please also contact me if you hear anything. I did hear about the Saturday meeting, but, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how one views it) I have preexisting commitments at that time.
Dan Grant November 08, 2012 at 10:21 PM
I heard today about neighborhoods where the electric goes out 7 or eight times a year not including a storm like this. The postings of so many all have a common point of lack of communication. It isn't that people didn't expect problems they did and were as prepared as they could be. What is really upsetting people is the lack of information from the Power Company and the Elected Officials other than of course the fact of the lack of power. People want to know what their elected officials are doing and saying. The Power Companies are under the Board of Public Utilities, a State Agency, Why haven't the Township Committee members not gotten the Assembly people and our own State Senator Joe Penacchio (who lives in Montville Township involved or if they have why didn't they let the public know.
Sharon Faber November 09, 2012 at 12:24 AM
At this time (11/15/12) I am still without power (11 days) in Towaco. It is 46 degrees in a home with no water as we have a well. In addition, when the township ordered mandatory hook up to sewers, we had to install a tank and costly ejector pumps to move the sewage to the road. Now of course the tank is full, so even if there was water, you cannot flush the toilets. There is zero communication from the town and JCP&L. I still have yet to see anyone even on my street. The power lines that came down 11 days ago are still in the road! Very frustrated in Towaco! S. Faber
HFW November 09, 2012 at 12:56 AM
I was told that Passaic Valley Road was on the list for line workers to be at today. It looked optimistic around 4:30 pm when there were 4 trucks on the road. All they did was drive through the neighborhood a few times and now are nowhere to be found. How is this even acceptable anymore? I call everyday and am told that they know we are out but I am beginning to think that generators are fooling them.
Truscha Quatrone November 09, 2012 at 07:11 PM
I would be interested in attended this meeting.
Truscha Quatrone November 09, 2012 at 07:14 PM
What until this is resolved and watch our legislator's and senator take credit for helping so much with the recovery. Senator Pennacchio could have gotten the President of JCP&L to sit down with our mayor for better information and a plan.
mary Costa November 09, 2012 at 07:46 PM
I see where they say there are 23 line crews up in Montville. There are none near David Allen Way off Vahalla Rd. Where are thye???
Romana Khan November 09, 2012 at 08:43 PM
We still don't have power. Its not easy during this cold weather especially with the kids.I don't see any improvements @David Allen Way :-(
Louise Vollmayer November 13, 2012 at 07:47 AM
The first step is that we need a committee in town to determine exactly which trees are most hazardous to power lines during high winds. Then, the trees have to simply be trimmed or removed by the township. We have to review with JCP &L which GRIDS the various sections of town are on, and assess if those grids can be upgraded or improved to reduce the likelihood of such a long outage EVER again!
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