This is a copy of an email I sent to about 400 New Jersey mayors/clerks (whose contact information were available online). This letter and this initiative are not communications or official action on behalf of the Village.
Dear fellow mayors and municipal colleagues,
My name is Alex Torpey and I’m the Mayor and Emergency Management Coordinator for the Township of South Orange Village. I’m emailing you today because, like many of you, I'm frustrated. And like many of you, I want to see decisive actions and results from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities working with our utility companies in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. But we need to do this together.
All of our communities have been dealing with the challenges and destruction from Hurricane Sandy - some of us are still recovering and rebuilding and will be continuing to do so for the foreseeable future. Our first responders, relief workers, community members and utility workers have all stepped up to the plate in incredible ways across our state. Many local governments have already begun looking at what went well and what needs improvement. It's time for the utility companies to do the same.
Last year after the storms, we tried to lend a hand to improve communication processes and information management and we haven't seen the progress our residents deserve. Again this year, myself and many other mayors felt equally in the dark with the lack of consistent, accurate information from our utilities about the progress of restoration, impacting not only residents' quality of life, work and families but how we deploy our emergency resources and devise our recovery plans.
I'm not an electrical engineer and I don't know how long it should take to restore a power grid, but I am a mayor and an emergency management professional and I do know the critical importance of the proper flow of accurate information, especially during an emergency.
In South Orange, I brought a resolution to my governing body asking for the BPU and Legislature to conduct an investigation into how public utilities manage information, communicate, prepare, and respond to extreme power outages, and compel all public utility companies, through legislative action, to adopt the recommendations resulting from this investigation. Since then, several other towns have adopted sister resolutions. But we need more.
Instead of worrying about staying on top of our utility companies during the next storm, we should be able to spend more time out in our communities helping our hardest hit residents and working with our volunteers and staff on the ground to keep our communities safe and lend a hand to those who need it most.
I have had the chance to coordinate with many of you over the past several weeks and respect and appreciate all of your dedication to our communities - I believe our joint passage of these statements will carry much more weight than just one or two of us alone. Additionally, I have been in contact with the League, and they have been very helpful in offering their support to facilitate the kinds of discussions between us, the BPU and the utility companies that will help bring about meaningful change, as well as advocating for those communities facing the most severe of challenges right now.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me by email, my personal cell or on Facebook or Twitter. I look forward to working with you on this and many other issues in the future. And if there is any assistance South Orange can lend to those of you whose communities were the hardest hit and facing challenges to rebuild, we are happy to assist in whatever ways we can.
Wishing you, your families, and your communities all the best.
Mayor/OEM Coordinator, South Orange