Mayor James Barberio sent Patch an open letter regarding the town's handling of Superstorm Sandy to residents. We present it, as sent to us, in its entirety.
Forecasters predicted Hurricane Sandy to not only be the perfect storm, but also warned us of its potential severe effects once it hit the coast of New Jersey. These warnings were taken very seriously and the Township made every effort to ensure resident safety and well-being. Emergency plans were put into effect days before the storm’s predicted arrival by the Office of Emergency Management (OEM).
The OEM Communications Center was enhanced to handle the anticipated high volume of calls and to maintain communication with our first responders, key Township personnel and utility companies. A sand bag distribution site was setup, catch basins were cleaned, yard waste picked up, generators and truck fleets fueled, and locations established for shelter and warming/charging centers, to name a few. No one could have predicted the devastation that ensued after the storm and I am proud of how Township personnel faced the challenge and worked as team to restore our infrastructure.
Witnessing life after the storm as I visited each neighborhood, I saw first-hand how adversity strengthened our sense of community and an outpouring of support for those in need. Most residences and businesses were left in the dark for days with no power restoration timeline in sight, inside temperatures declining daily, and long gas lines. Although the return to normalcy seemed endless, the Township was proactively navigating the many challenges with positive results.
Delivering water and sewage treatment without electricity were paramount concerns. Through established relationships prior to and during the storm, OEM secured needed generators and fuel to run our water pumping stations to maintain water supply to homes and businesses and replenish water supplies from dangerously low to normal. An innovative approach to powering the plant was implemented at our waste water treatment plant. Inconsistent or dirty power was being supplied by JCP&L and erratic spikes in the power supply had the potential to shut down operations. Township personnel were able to disconnect from JCP&L’s power source and operate on generators. Transformers at the plant were then retrofitted to eliminate the electrical surges. Once consistent power was restored, personnel were able to reconnect to JCP&L’s power source. With the plant’s power fully restored, we were now able to assist other municipalities who no longer had the means to treat their sludge. Parsippany has and continues to assist over 50 municipalities and has greatly helped our environment by reducing the amount of untreated sludge entering our waterways and preventing the spread of disease.
JCP&L deployed crews from many states and worked hard to restore our power. OEM and the Mayor’s Office worked diligently to secure more reliable information and obtain action for restoration requests. Re-opening Routes 46, 10, 202 and 53 were also high priorities for OEM. With the cooperation of JCP&L, downed poles and wires were removed and critical traffic signals were re-powered. Day by day, power was restored to yet another area of town. Although JCP&L’s efforts were appreciated, it wasn’t much of a consolation to the thousands of residents and businesses who were without power for far too long. Better communication from JCP&L and timely power restoration continue to be our top priorities.
Damage from Hurricane Sandy severely compromised gasoline supplies throughout central and northern New Jersey. Quickly reacting to the unending and disorganized lines, the Police Department was able to restore order and prevent any serious mishaps.
Finally, over 1,500 residents took advantage of the warming/charging stations and the overnight shelters established during the recovery period. The Department of Human Services and the Parsippany Board of Education were instrumental in opening heated and powered facilities, providing a warm welcome and hot and cold beverages, supplemented with generous donations of meals and snacks by caring elected officials, residents, and businesses.
I’m pretty sure that this won’t be the last time that Mother Nature throws us a curve ball, but we are ready and will continue to build upon and enhance our emergency management procedures. Daily meetings with key personnel created organizational support, shifting dependence from outside entities to in-house resources to solve problems. Parsippany has always been a frontrunner in the delivery of municipal services and the result of our performance during this unprecedented event further reinforces our Pride in Parsippany.