Citing increases in its population, controversial wind turbines planned for the Atlantic Ocean, power outages and rate increases, the Ocean County Board of Commissioners is again calling upon the state to finally choose a Jersey Shore resident to represent the area on the state Board of Public Utilities.
“Unlike some areas of New Jersey, people continue to move to Ocean County and our population continues to grow,” said Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Joseph H. Vicari. “Yet, this area does not have a voice on one of the most influential boards overseen by the state of New Jersey.
“It’s imperative we finally get a seat at the table to make sure the concerns of our residents are heard,” said Vicari, who has been a staunch advocate of an Ocean County representative being named to the BPU for years.
Vicari along with his colleagues on the Board of Commissioners passed a resolution Sept. 20 calling on Gov. Murphy and the Senate to appoint a resident of Ocean County or at least the Jersey Shore to the BPU.
In the absence of a full time member from the Jersey Shore, the BPU, at a minimum should designate a liaison or alternate members to represent the area, Vicari said.
“We have many concerns and our concerns are not always the same as our neighbors to the north of us,” Vicari said.
Vicari noted that currently there is a seat open on the BPU. The other seats are held by members from areas including Morris and Somerset counties.
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities is the state agency with authority to oversee the regulated utilities, which provide critical services such as natural gas, electricity, water, telecommunications, and cable television. The law requires the BPU to ensure safe, adequate, and proper utility services at reasonable rates for all customers throughout New Jersey.
“Ocean County has, for years, called upon the appointing authority in the State of New Jersey to choose a resident of Ocean County to sit on the BPU in order to provide a needed voice to represent the unique characteristics and challenges faced by communities located along the coast of the State,” Vicari said. “The population of Ocean County continues to grow with both full-time and seasonal residents increasing the need for assurances by utility companies to provide uninterrupted service and to make certain equipment is maintained and adequately updated.”
Ocean County currently has a year-round population of 680,000 residents with the number steadily increasing in the summer/warm weather months to more than 1.3 million people. In addition, about 200,000 seniors call Ocean County home.
“It’s imperative that with the increase in population, energy and utility demands are met without interruption of service, and our residents, visitors and businesses are confident in all utilities working properly and available for their needs,” Vicari said.
He added another key topic before the BPU is the controversy over the proposed wind turbines.
“Our residents are looking for answers,” Vicari said. “These areas are all critical to our economy, our businesses, our fishing industry and our tax base.”
In addition to being sent to the state, the Board’s resolution will also be sent to the mayors of all 33 municipalities in Ocean County.
“I urge our municipalities to also call upon the Governor to appoint a representative from Ocean County serve on the BPU,” Vicari said. “It’s important we join together to get this done.”