Below is a letter to the editor from Hopatcong resident Jean Burk-Ujvary on Tuesday, Nov. 13. Burk-Ujvary offers her thoughts and response to the "finger pointing and Mayor bashing" during Sandy's aftermath, and says she believes officials and JCP&L did the best they could in response to the storm.
"Below is what I wanted to respond to all the finger pointers and name calling people out there but of course it is way too long. We have a much bigger problem in our town, State, and Coast than a few weeks with no power. I am a 20-year resident and love where I live and I love our Lake. People need to stop complaining and start doing! Just the way I think.
I agree that name calling and finger pointing is silly at this time. What has happened, is done we cannot change it but, we should all learn from it. I will be narrow minded for a moment – looking at our town and our town only. I knew on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 that we were not going to have power for two or more weeks. The devastation was 100% worse than any storm I have seen in my life (54yrs).
I was out of power last October for 5 days so I knew I was in trouble this time around. My house sustained damage that I need to get fixed that week and got the job done, with a lot of luck and help from family and friends, as did a lot of us. Community, neighbors, that was job one.
We all lost something and some everything in the wake of Sandy, so those that lost a little be thankful, those that lost everything we will as your community and neighbors help you rebuild. For the people who cried “I am cold” there was a warm shelter with two hot meals a day, snacks and hot showers. I do not understand why you would sit in a cold house or not shower.
For those who had generators thank you for sharing your recourses to those of us that did not. Those who cried “There is no gas!” Sometimes we needed to drive a little further or hang out in a line. Really, what did you have to do anyway? To the finger pointing at the Power Company – now I will not be narrow minded – WE were not the only community with major damage, we were not the only town or State with no power. The power company had to asses each and every street in our town, log the entire products needed to do the repair, and then try to beat every other power company on the East Coast for those products.
To be honest I am impressed with what a great job the power company and tree workers did. As far as the means of communication calling JCP&L’s office for updates is unrealistic, if you want to know what the truth was you have to talk to the foreman’s in charge of your town. If the Mayor cannot do it and her job is to delegate than that is what she should have done to stay informed.
Here is my hindsight:
1) The Mayor and Council would have done good to get immediate funds from the State for overtime for the Police and Road Department. As we were 100% without power.
a. Case in point – Friday November 9, 2012 - 4:50 – I came up Maxim Dr. on my way home, at the Methodist Church the road signs “Road Closed” next sign “Local Traffic Only”. So I drove through only to find the road completely blocked as St. Jude’s. As I was turning around a power foreman came up and asked why I and all these other cars were driving through a closed road sign. I said there was a sign for “Local Traffic Only”. He was two steps from packing his crew as the road was no longer safe (because of traffic) for him to work . I said I would go to the police department and get him some help. I went to the police department and explained to the officer on duty the situation on Maxim Drive. I was told he only had (3) Three officers on duty (REALLY?) and could not assign one to traffic duty. I asked could he clear the “Local Traffic Only” sign. He said “No mam, I am sorry that had to be done by the road department.” Job # 1 Keep the citizens and work crews safe! That was not done prior to November 9, 2012.
2) If all forms of electronic communication is down do it the old fashion way. We have a bill board under the clock in town. They could have made a sign with a time daily to get updates at the High School (Like the shelter signs). I feel the Mayor or someone close to her in a working capacity should have given a daily or every other day report at the High School to what work has been done and a projected work schedule.
a. Be at the morning briefing of the power crews. At the end of the foreman assignment to the crews ask for a 5 – 10 minute briefing (in person) to assure the areas that are being worked on can be addressed by the Police and/or Road Department Personnel to assure a safe working environment for these out of town crews and the public. If the foreman’s have a problem with giving 5 – 10 minutes of their time reaffirm it is for his crew’s safety along with the public.
b. Inform foremen of busy roadway on homeward commutes at dusk. It may not have been a good idea for the work crew closing off Maxim Drive with a “Local Traffic Only” sign out. They may have chosen to work another area if they knew.
End thoughts: This storm brought out the best and worst:
The Best: Is all the CERT, Police, Fire Department, Ambulance, and Red Cross, and local volunteers. To all who donated to the shelter, to those that helped their neighbors. To those who brought coffee and donuts to the crews working to fix our town. To the Mayor and Council that did the best they could. If you do not like what they did vote them out, if not they do not need comments of being stupid or worse.
The Worse: people complaining, people giving the power crews an attitude and putting them in danger. People stealing from their neighbors, those who are and will take advantage of this situation to line their pockets with unearned and scam deals. To those making cruel and unnecessary comments, next time you run for mayor (please note I have found a lot of comments that addressed the miscommunications and ineptness in this situation that did not belittle or make cruel comments. So please do not think I am making a political stand with the current administration, trust me I am not!).
The worse is over for most of us, now we need to focus on those that their horror is still staring them in the face. Our job for our community, State and Coast has a long road ahead of us and we need to stand strong and as one."