Ocean, Monmouth Freeholder Directors seek Jersey Shore BPU representative
New Jersey residents got a Willy Wonka style denial (you get nothing...) when JCP&L, PSE&G and Atlantic City Electric said no to reimbursing them for food lost due to power outages from Tropical Storm Isaias last week.
Ocean County Freeholder Director Joe Vicari even went so far as to sending a request to Governor Phil Murphy as well as JCP&L and Atlantic City Electric to reconsider their stances.
In an effort to better serve the residents of Ocean and Monmouth County as well as seek more transparency from the State, Freeholder Director Vicari along with Monmouth County Freeholder Director Tom Arnone announced on Tuesday that they are teaming up and making a push to have a Jersey Shore representative on the State Board of Public Utilities.
“Without a voice on this utility regulatory board we face an uphill battle with the power companies in getting help for residents whether it be from Tropical Storm Isaias which hit August 4, other coastal storms or failures on the part of the utility companies,” Freeholder Vicari said. “As Jersey Shore counties, we pump a great deal of dollars into the economy from tourism revenues, lengthy power outages as we just saw hurt tourism which is an economic engine for both Monmouth and Ocean counties. Power outages also cause great concern for our large senior communities and our hard working families. These are people that are either on a fixed income or a salary that doesn’t allow extra money to replace food and prescriptions spoiled by power outages.”
Whether it be tourism or just helping the residents within both counties, Arnone and Vicari feel that Monmouth and Ocean have "unique characteristics that the current members of the BPU are not as familiar with" and that perspective could and should be coming from a resident of one of these counties.
“Monmouth and Ocean counties have everything from farmlands to dense downtowns to beach towns—all of which serve as tourism destinations—and so we understand the effects of power outages on a much broader scale than some other counties,” Freeholder Arnone said. “Our counties heavily rely on tourism revenue, which is directly impacted by power outages. Our restaurants alone account for more than 20 percent of tourism revenue and when there are lengthy power outages, these restaurants are forced to throw away thousands of dollars of food on top of all of the revenue lost from having to keep their doors closed to thousands of visitors.”
Ocean County has a population of approximately 600,000 year-round residents which swells to 1.2 million people in the summer.
Monmouth County has a population of 617,000 but sees more than 8.9 million visitors, with the majority during the summer season.
Tourism revenues in Ocean County total $5-billion and Monmouth County totals $2.6 billion.
Between Tropical Storm Isaias and the Covid-19 pandemic, it's been a tough year at the Jersey Shore leading to many people working remotely or from home which Vicari is concerned about for residents.
“These people lost a day or more of work due to the power outage,” Vicari said.
The current Board of Public Utilities is made up of representatives from Essex, Camden, Morris, Somerset and Bergen counties.
There is not currently an opening on the BPU but the Freeholders (both Republicans) want Monmouth and Ocean to be considered when there is one.
BPU members are appointed by the Governor (currently a Democrat) and confirmed by the state Senate to serve six-year staggered terms.
“With one voice we can make a difference and place an advocate on the Board of Public Utilities that will represent the interests of the residents of Monmouth and Ocean counties and all shore communities,” Vicari said.
Freeholders Arnone and Vicari said that during the height of the power outages from Isaias there were nearly 359,000 Jersey Central Power & Light Company customers in Monmouth and Ocean Counties without power and in some cases for several days.
“As our populations continue to grow, and people continue to move to Monmouth and Ocean counties to raise a family or retire, the need for representation on the BPU also increases,” Vicari said. “It’s time for coastal communities to have a say.”
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