Joseph H. Vicari, Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners, held a telephone conference with a Verizon corporate representative Wednesday to address a wide-ranging number of issues from dangerously low-hanging utility pole wires to the high cost of cable TV and cell phone service.
“I made it clear that I am willing to meet with Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg at any time to discuss these important issues that impact our residents,” Vicari said. “He doesn’t have to come to Ocean County from his New York offices. I’ll be happy to meet him halfway.”
Included in the discussions were the frequent complaints, especially from customers in Lakewood Township, about poor and spotty cell phone service.
“I have received a number of concerns from Lakewood residents saying they have very poor reception on their Verizon phones,” Vicari said. “Poor cell phone service is not just an inconvenience, it can be a safety and health issue if someone is trying to call 911 and cannot get through.”
Also on the agenda was the high cost of many Verizon services, including cable television.
“Many of our senior citizens live on their $1,800-a-month Social Security checks. They have a hard time affording cable TV, yet it is one of the few means of entertainment available to them,” Vicari said. “It truly is their window to the outside word.”
Vicari also questioned Verizon’s responsiveness when it comes to customers’ cable TV issues.
“I know from personal experience that when I had television problems they tasked me to crawl on the floor and move heavy furniture to check wires and connections,” he said. “They cannot expect our older seniors and disabled residents to do that. Verizon needs to send a service person to their homes and repair the problem. Verizon, not their customers, needs to do the heavy lifting.”
Vicari also took the opportunity to address an issue he’s been battling for several years – dangerously low-hanging communication wires on utility poles.
“I continue to see these heavy, sagging wires throughout the county,” he said. “They pose a serious threat to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.”
In April Vicari discussed the problem with state Board of Public Utilities Executive Director Bob Brabston.
At the same time, he requested that Governor Phil Murphy enact an executive order that would require utility companies to inspect all of their utility poles and wires at least twice a year.
Ronald Heinzman, Director of the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs and Chairman of the Ocean County Energy Commission, said he was very concerned about the number of sagging, bent or crooked utility poles in the county.
Heinzman, who was part of Vicari’s phone conference with Verizon officials, said not only are the tilting poles an eyesore, but also pose a safety threat.
“I’m afraid somebody is going to get seriously hurt,” he said. “This needs to be addressed.”
Vicari stressed that his phone conversation and desire to meet with CEO Vestberg is not a criticism of the telecommunications company.
“I want to work together and cooperate with Verizon to address these issues important to Ocean County residents,” he said.