Saying the “system has failed,” Joseph H. Vicari, director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners, had harsh words for officials from the state Board of Public Utilities concerning dangerously low-hanging utility wires through the county.
Vicari met virtually with BPU President Christine Guhl-Sadovy on Thursday asking for the state to take action on both low cables and leaning utility poles.
“I need you to help keep the people of Ocean County safe,” Vicari said. “There’s not a road in Ocean County where you can’t see low-hanging wires or leaning utility poles.”
Vicari has repeatedly asked that the BPU require telecommunications firms to inspect their utility poles and wires at least once a year.
So far, he’s had little success. The virtual meeting with Guhl-Sadovy followed a November session with BPU staff on the same topic.
“You have to make sure that the utility companies meet their legal and safety obligations,” Vicari said. “These wires are dangerous, dangerous, dangerous. We have a crisis in Ocean County and no one seems to care.”
He also referred to a recent accident in Lakewood Township when a truck became snagged in low wires.
Guhl-Sadovy said Vicari or other county officials were free to reach out to her directly and report a problem with poles or wires.
However, BPU officials said some of the issues are aesthetic only and are not a public safety issue.
They said utility poles are inspected every five years for safety issues.
Vicari said five years is too long.
“Take the time to come to Ocean County. Come here and then tell me it’s not a safety issue,” he said.
Guhl-Sadovy said she would sent BPU officials to Toms River for an assessment of the poles and lines.
Vicari replied that the issue isn’t confined to just one town.
Guhl-Sadovy also rejected Vicari’s call for a pilot program in Ocean County that would require utility companies to inspect their lines at least once a year.
She said such a program could not be confined to a single county but would have to include a utility’s entire service area.
Last month, BPU officials said the Board does not have the authority to require a yearly inspection.
“Someone has to have the authority,” Vicari argued. “Something has to be done.”
Vicari said he has been fielding residents’ complaints about low-hanging wires and crooked poles for decades.
“It’s getting worse,” he said. “One utility company blames another and nothing gets fixed. These companies make a huge profit off of our residents but don’t care about safety,” he said.