By John Burton
RUMSON –Residents in the area of Ridge Road are not happy with the way Jersey Central Power and Light has handled a scheduled tree trimming and said customer notification was inadequate.
The tree-trimming work, which has been going on for the last couple of weeks, is being done to preserve and protect power lines.
“We’ll work to satisfy the customer as best we can,” Ron Morano, a spokesman for JCP&L, said this week in response to some of the criticism being leveled against the power utility.
While Morano said the company hasn’t received any complaints from residents or borough officials, some residents, have voiced their concern to Mayor John Ekdahl and to The Two River Times.
“I was absolutely horrified with what I saw,” said Lisa Morris, who lives on Van Circle, which is off of Ridge Road.
Morris said “trimmed” was an inaccurate description of what had occurred over the last few weeks. “There’s nothing left but trunks” in some cases with trees sheered of their branches and tops cut off. “It looks awful. It’s just disgusting what’s been done,” Morris said.
“It’s a sad thing,” said Sailers Way resident Patricia Lordi. “These trees take years to grow and to systematically cut them down like that … It takes away the aesthetics. It’s sad.”
JCP&L contracts with private companies to prune tree branches near power lines, Morano said. In the Ridge Road area, that is is done in four-year cycles. Along Ridge Road, through Rumson, Fair Haven and Little Silver, he said, poles contain three sets of power lines, two sub-transition circuits carrying 34,500 volts each and distribution-line circuits of 12,500 volts, and is the major source of power for the area.
The work is done by forestry contractors hired by JCP&L and overseen by the utility company’s certified arborists, Morano said.
The power company also attempts to contacts homeowners along the right-of-way to keep them informed and notifies the municipalities, he said.
“We have been much more proactive the past couple of years,” with customer outreach, he said. Customers have been more accepting of the necessary work, in light of severe weather events the last few years and its impact on service.
“Certainly, in the post-Irene, -Sandy world, people are much more aware of the role trees are playing in power outages,” Morano said.
Ekdahl shared the view of residents, offering his criticism of the power utility.
“I don’t know what orders they gave them, but they didn’t do a very careful job,” the mayor said, noting that the work to trim the trees was much more severe than in years past.
“It almost looked like they did it blindfolded,” he said.
Ekdahl said the JCP&L area manager contacted the borough’s public works supervisor about the work, but neither the mayor nor administrator Tom Rogers were informed of the pending work.
Many of the trees appeared to have “no hope for survival,” given the extent of the pruning, Ekdahl said.
“This work is necessary,” Morano said. “But, if there’s an issue, and customers aren’t satisfied, we’re going to address that.”
Ekdahl said the contractors left a number of the trees standing that had been stripped bare of limbs. “They looked like totem poles,” Ekdahl said. “It looks terrible.”
“It’s extraordinary,” said Manioucha Krishnamurti of Bellevue Avenue after she saw the work on Ridge Road. “A tree without branches cannot have leaves and without leaves they cannot photosynthesize. Without photosynthesis, it can’t do anything at all. It’ll die.
“I just think it’s just an awful shame that the electric company didn’t take that into consideration,” Krishnamurti said.
In a follow-up conversation with a JCP&L representative, Ekdahl got assurances that the company was planning on addressing the situation with the contractor who was scheduled to return in the coming week or so to cut down the stripped trees.
That assurance didn’t satisfy Morris, however. “You can’t fix what they’ve done,” she said. “It takes generations for them to grow.”
JCP&L applied for a permit on Jan. 9 from the Monmouth County Shade Tree Commission, a procedure that is required when tree work is to be done on a county roadway, said Laura Kirkpatrick, county director of public information. As part of that permitting process, a shade tree commission member accompanies the contractor and utility representative to inspect the area, specifically looking for high-risk trees and evaluating the scope of the work to be done, ” Kirkpatrick said.
Once the work is completed, the commission member will again inspect the work area and will eventually make a decision whether new plantings will be placed along the route, she said.
That inspection is scheduled for Monday, March 17, Kirkpatrick said.