Chester Township Mayor Bill Cogger was going to spend Wednesday night in the generator-powered Municipal Building presiding over a meeting of the mayor and council, but the arriving winter storm Athena altered those plans.
Instead, Cogger spent the evening on the phone with JCP&L President Don Lynch as he added kerosene to the lamps he was using to light his powerless home.
"Don Lynch has committed to Saturday for power restoration in the majority of the township," Cogger said. "There may be a few single hookups left after Saturday, but the majority will be restored."
Like most of his residents, Cogger had been without power and heat since the night Hurricane Sandy blew through town. After a week the mayor picked up a small portable generator from the Chester Shop Rite. But the majority of his time since the storm has been spent either on conference calls looking for assistance or traveling through town surveying the damage.
"I have been on almost every road almost daily and there are still hazardous areas," Cogger said.
Cogger said that he has made numerous reports to hazardous areas like Benjamin Road and State Park Road, but has no way to expedite repairs. According to Cogger, there were ten crews working on State Park Road on Wednesday, and repairing the transmission line there would help restore power to not only part of Chester, but to Long Valley as well.
During the powerless week, Chester Township worked to open up as many roads as they could and provide places where people could charge up and warm up.
"We have had the Municipal Building open and we will over the weekend as well and now we have our Wi-Fi back," Cogger said. "The library is open without the Wi-Fi and Mayor Davis has been gracious enough to allow our residents to use the borough's warming station as well. So we thank Bob for that."
It has been a long week for the residents of Chester Township, and Cogger himself was out the night of the storm looking to assess problem areas with his Public Works staff when the storm slammed into Chester full force.
"I have never seen trees bend like that. I saw transmission lines burning," Cogger said. "And the whole thing took 15 minutes."
Cogger said one of the township's crews were trapped and he only got home because of the rescue.
"We had to cut our way through," Cogger said.
Since the storm, the Chester Township DPW has been dilligent about cleaning up everything they could as fast as they could.
"We had every tree without wires cleared," Cogger said. "The failure here lies in JCP&L. Their technology is archaic. Their system for outage detection is archaic. Their dispatch system is archaic. They didn't seem to learn anything from Irene."
And despite the Saturday assurance, Cogger is quick to point out that is not his estimate.
"That is based on what Don Lynch said," Cogger said. "That is not Bill Cogger saying that."