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Freeholders call for local representation on Board of Public Utilities

The freeholders who represent Monmouth and Ocean counties are calling on state officials to appoint a representative from the two-county region to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU).

Speaking about the issue during a meeting on Sept. 10, Monmouth County Freeholder Director Tom Arnone said a seat on the BPU will open this month.

The freeholders who oversee the operation of Monmouth and Ocean counties say they want the shore region to have a voice on the BPU, which is New Jersey’s utility regulatory agency.

In a resolution the Monmouth County freeholders passed during the meeting, the elected officials said the two counties are renewing an effort for representation on the board “following widespread and lengthy power outages from Tropical Storm Isaias which impacted the shore area on Aug. 4, 2020.”

During the height of the recent power outages, almost 359,000 Jersey Central Power and Light customers in Monmouth and Ocean counties were without power, in some cases for several days, according to the resolution.

Ocean County is also serviced by Atlantic City Electric and 52,641 customers in Ocean County were without power after Isaias.

The freeholders said, “Without a voice on the BPU, the Jersey Shore faces an uphill battle with the power companies in getting help for residents, whether it be from a tropical storm like Isaias, other coastal storms, or failures on the part of the utility companies.”

The freeholders said “lengthy power outages also hurt tourism, which is an economic engine for both Monmouth and Ocean counties.”

In calling for the appointment of a BPU board member from the region, the freeholders said, “Coastal counties like Monmouth and Ocean have unique characteristics that the current members of the BPU are not as familiar with as a resident of one of these counties
would be.”

According to the resolution, the BPU currently has representatives from Essex, Camden, Morris, Somerset and Bergen counties.

The freeholders said they “want the next opening on the BPU to go to a qualified individual from this shore region in order to assure representation of the interests of the residents and businesses of Monmouth and Ocean counties, and all shore communities.”

In the absence of a member from the Jersey Shore, they said the BPU should designate a liaison to the Monmouth-Ocean region to address the growing concerns.

Monmouth County Administrator Teri O’Connor said “the two counties have suffered through storms” that have left people without power for days at a time.

“The BPU has five members who are appointed by the Governor and one term is expiring this month,” she said.

Arnone said “the freeholders on both boards feel strongly” about having a representative from the Jersey Shore serving on the BPU.

In other news, O’Connor said that for the 11th consecutive year the county has received a “clean audit” that did not reveal any problems with its financial management procedures or contain any comments or recommendations from the auditor.

O’Connor said the results of the audit mean a corrective action plan is not required.

“We run one heck of a good county,” Arnone said, and he thanked Director of Finance Craig R. Marshall and his staff for their efforts in managing the county’s finances in a manner that results in an unblemished audit.

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