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Overtime Makes Up Bulk of Post-Sandy Expense

Over $200,000 paid out in Morristown for salary and wages related to October storm; nearly $100,000 so far in Morris Township. Final costs for both municipalities yet to be determined.

Time is money. Overtime is, well, more money.

A natural disaster like Sandy does not come around too often (no comments from the Peanut Gallery, Irene). When it does, a lot of extra manpower is needed to get things up and running.

Indeed, in both Morristown and Morris Township, it has been salary and wages that, so far, make up most of the post-Sandy cost.

In Morristown, approximately $210,000 has been paid out as a result of the storm that battered the East Coast just before Halloween. Business Administrator Michael Rogers estimated $202,000 of that came from salary and wages alone.

In Morris Township, Timothy Quinn, their business administrator said about $90,000 in overtime had already been paid out, with an endgame projection of $400,000 needed as a result of the storm.

For both municipalities, a number of unexpected plot twists during the Sandy saga helped keep those numbers inching skyward. In Morris Township, staff and fuel were essential to keep two of its sewer utilities powered after Sandy indiscriminately knocked electricity out to almost the entire township.

Morristown faced a similar problem. Except where Morris Township's own facilities could run as normal with generators, Morristown's sludge hauling and disposal are handled by the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission. Unfortunately, their Newark-based facility was flooded by Sandy "causing widespread and significant damage," said Mike DeFrancisci, that commission's executive director. "We are working with our local, county, state and federal partners and have forged a true working relationship, on site, that will expedite our return to normal operations."

Until their facility is back to normal, Morristown has needed to find other places that would accept its sludge. Currently, Rogers said, the town is working with Parsippany on a temporary basis.

As municipalities struggle to find places to dispose of their waste, much of it that would normally head to PVSC for treatment is going into waterways, Rogers said. "A lot of untreated waste water is flowing into rivers," he said. "It's a huge ecological story.

"Operationally speaking, where our sludge was hauled and disposed of, that's not there right now," Rogers added.

Another story closer to home was a shortage of gasoline which, when power finally did come back on here, resulted in multi-hour waits for fuel. For most stations, that meant a police presence, which meant additional costs.

Then, of course, there was the issue of a low-hanging wire that was caught by a passing garbage truck two weeks ago, resulting in additional outages and costs.

While most work has been completed, Rogers reminded anyone who still sees a down or low-hanging wire to contact JCP&L directly.

Still, it appears Sandy did not cause in some cases as much damage—at least here—as did Irene and the October snowstorm in 2011. Quinn noted Irene—which took out the JCP&L substation on Ridgedale Avenue—created havoc in the form of washed out roads. "We fortunately did not have that [with Sandy]," he said.

"It's an ongoing process," Quinn said. "It probably will take several months for final determinations."

Rogers echoed his Morris Township counterpart, noting invoices are yet to arrive for outside contractor services including emergency tree removal. Also, all that sludge that currently is being hauled to Parsippany comes at a greater cost that has yet to be calculated, as well.

What is not covered by FEMA, "we will have to seek authorization approval from the governing body" for emergency funds, Rogers said. That is expected to happen at the Town Council's December meeting. Those requested funds would then need to be included in next year's municipal budget.

As a greater, statewide issue, this recovery process is expected to move well into next year, Rogers said.

Rob Burke November 21, 2012 at 11:29 AM
Municipal OT is but one element that we will bear the burden of paying. Utility line workers were earning double and triple time and logging lots of hours. That will ripple into your utility bills. The OT will flow right through to your property tax bill. It's no ones fault that there was a hurricane. But don't kid yourself. There are untold stories of folks who weren't working as fast as they could because they were earning so much money. Not everyone, just some. I know one story where a utility worker was natructed by a superior to slow down, he's making the rest of us look bad. This is what some folks call a conflict of interest...
Terry November 21, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Anecdotal "evidence" aside, utility workers put in long, grueling hours, days and weeks to restore power in extreme conditions and deserve recompense for that.
Kenny J. November 21, 2012 at 04:52 PM
While I agree with your sentiments, I also must add that I would expect contractors to take their time. They need to not feel rushed even when people are complaining about lack of power. The last thing we need for these workers are safety hazards, rush jobs, and more stress to hurry up all the time. There were more than a few accidents in the Morris Country area from unnecessary mistakes. Everything got fixed. No one died. Big thank you to all of you contractors out there who worked hard in stormy weather and dangerous conditions to bring services back online.
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