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Sandy's Cost to Borough Over $680K

Most of the funds will be taken out of Chatham Borough's joint insurance fund, but emergency appropriations will have to be allotted for the rest.

In a report on Chatham Borough's preparation for and response to Tropical Storm Sandy, Administrator Robert Falzarano estimated the storm's total damage to the borough $680,841.

Falzarano briefly summarized his report diring the council meeting Monday, in which he outlined the borough's major costs as a result of the storm. According to the report, costs from Sandy include:

  • 655 overtime hours worked by employees of the Department of Public Works, totaling $33,734.
  • 411 overtime hours worked by Police Department employees, totaling $31,107.
  • 559 meals served for utility workers and volunteers, totaling $2,000.
  • Estimated damage to borough property, including sidewalks, is $10,000.
  • Estimated cost for private companies to remove trees and brush is $6,000.
  • Approximate damage caused from borough trees is $600,000.

These funds are on top of the 942 regular hours worked by DPW employees and the 1,674 regular hours worked by police employees during the storm.

According to Falzarano, damage caused by borough trees can be taken out of the borough's Joint Insurance Fund (JIF), which is in the millions. For the remaining funds, Falzarano said the borough council will likely have to vote on emergency appropriations to cover the expense.

Preparation for the storm began several days before the storm hit, with a meeting of the emergency operating staff members. The weekend before Sandy hit, DPW employees were out clearing storm drains and catch basins. After the storm, volunteers and council members delivered flyers, opened shelters and organized buses for commuters.

Still, the biggest lesson officials and commuters took away from the storm is the need for improved communication in emergencies. Dave Carey suggested the borough join the Nixle alert system. Another woman suggested driving through town with a bullhorn.

Borough Council members each took some time to commend the things that were done well during and after the storm, including volunteers from the Chatham Borough Fire Department, Community Emergency Response Team and community members who gave their time  to help others.

They also talked about the need for improved communication, and the need to improve preparations for longterm power outages among residents. Several, including Council President James Lonergan, cited JCP&L's lacklustre performance in getting power restored.

Councilman Len Resto also criticized New Jersey Transit for not being more forthcoming with information about when the Morris & Essex line would resume service. Resto commutes to New York City and has taken the charter buses Lonergan arranged for residents, which the council jokingly called the 'Lonergan Express.'

"People need to know," Resto said. "At 11:05 [p.m.] last night they post that they'll resume service this morning. If you're like me, you're getting up at 4:30 in the morning to catch the 'Lonergan Express,' you're not awake to read that."

That, Resto said, was on top of the people who waited for trains that had delays of up to 90 minutes Monday.

Councilman Gerald Helfrich also criticized corporate communications. "I know the utility companies were so fearful of giving any specific information," he said, but the lack of information made it more difficult, not less, for residents.

Josiepp November 13, 2012 at 12:53 PM
I would say there are three learnings for the Borough Council from our Sandy experience: 1) Improve communication (how done and on what), 2) Make public the decision making process which assigns emergency response repair resourses, and 3) Understand what the rewards & penalties are that motivate JCP&L performance, and change the relationship to improve readiness and responsiveness.
Duncan Munchkin November 13, 2012 at 02:41 PM
>> Approximate damage caused from borough trees is $600,000. << I would add...dissolve the anachronistic Shade Tree Commission and set up a Hazardous Tree Replacement Commission. Allow borough residents to remove trees they deem hazardous to their life and property if they are willing to do so. In good weather, the borough claims all trees within in 10 feet of the road. In bad weather, the borough climbs into heavy machinery and revs the motors so loud it can't hear you.
Ron Swanson November 13, 2012 at 08:00 PM
We need to stop planting trees and spend our limited resources taking care of the trees we do have, including taking down trees that have reached the end of their life span before they do damage. Trees and overhead power lines are a combination that simply asks for long term power outages. Chatham officials have a responsibility to work with utilities in ensuring that power outages are avoided at all costs, rather than worrying about whether we have all the politically correct green, "tree city", etc. designations. Homeowners should also have more leeway in taking down trees they view as a potential danger on their own property.
CB Citizen November 15, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Regarding communication by the Borough, I'd say they did a pretty good job given the circumstances. Their website was updated frequently, and their Tweets via Twitter and cell phone text messaging were meaningful and regular. Given the resources, I'm not sure what more could have been done, but here are some thoughts: 1) The Nixle system requires that the Borough pay money to essentially duplicate what they are doing for FREE with Twitter. One does not even have to have a Twitter account to receive text message updates (see the Borough website for directions). Nixle would be an unnecessary expense to the town. 2) So much of our communication these days is electronic, so how can people find out what is happening in a power-out emergency? Perhaps the Borough could have posted paper notices in a few strategic locations (54 Fairmount, supermarkets, warming centers, etc.), but that would mean many people out and about to view the messages--not a safe option in an emergency. 3) How about radio? Where was good ol' AM radio? Having a cheap transistor or hand-crank radio to listen to a local station for updates would be ideal if a local radio station would regularly provide information--on the hour would be Chatham news; quarter past could be Madison; half past would be Florham Park, etc. Sometimes old tech is a good solution. The Borough did a very good job keeping us abreast of what was happening and its efforts to help.
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