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.