Who's In Charge?
by Jim Gerrish
I live on a county road. So when
I saw a hazardous situation developing at the corner of Sanford
and Melrose, in which a manhole in the street was gradually being
uncovered by the movement of traffic past it, I reported it to
the Essex County Department of Public Works. The first time I
reported it was on May 4th after a car knocked an emergency cone
off to the middle of the street. I replaced the cone, but could
do nothing to move the plywood covering back over the exposed
manhole opening, so I contacted the county via their e-mail reporting system on-line.
Nothing happened and the
situation was getting worse because the plywood covering the open
manhole was moving further back.
On May 6th I again reported to
the Essex County on-line reporting system that the situation was
becoming worse and that no one had even stopped to check on it.
Shortly afterwards, I received a
phone call from someone at the Essex County Department of Public
Works and was told that:
1. I should not have contacted
the Essex County DPW.
2. Even though Sanford Street is
a county road, the EC DPW had nothing to do with the equipment in
3. The equipment in the street
was the property of PSE&G's East Orange department.
4. In the opinion of the person
to whom I was speaking, PSE&G was negligent for covering the
open manhole with plywood; they should have covered it with a
heavy iron plate.
5. I should not report it to the
police because they could do nothing; it was the problem of
PSE&G to take care of.
6. The person to whom I was
speaking stated that he would contact PSE&G and recommend the
hole be covered with an iron plate.
7. I should not get involved
because that would make me liable if an accident occurred because
of the open manhole.
In the meantime, I saw police
cars regularly pass the location without stopping to correct it,
and apparently no one else had reported it, so nothing was done.
On May 11th, at 3:00 AM, my cat
woke me up to be let outside. When I opened the door I saw that a
vehicle had smashed into the barrier completely opening up the
manhole and knocking much of the structure further south down
Sanford Street. The dangerous situation had suddenly become much
more serious. I could imagine what would happen if a car ran over
the hole and a tire dropped down into it. Apparently no one else
seemed to be able to foresee this possibility.
Look for yourself. Does the
situation shown in the above photo which I took at 3:22 AM
Daylight Saving Time look dangerous to you? That's why, before I
went picture taking, I called 911 and the East Orange police said
they would send a car to check things out.
The police car arrived and the
lone police officer tried her best to pile up the debris on top
of the plywood as a warning to traffic, but the manhole remained
At 4:08 AM DST I went back out to
see what had been done. The police car was gone and the debris
now looked like this. Do you feel safer knowing that this is the
end result of contacting the Essex County DPW, depending on
PSE&G to fix the problem, and calling the police to cover an
open manhole so no one has a serious accident?
Who is in charge? Could it be Dono Nuthin?
Dono Nuthin, Department of Public Stupidity
05/11/14 5:15 AM DST - Follow-up: The cat called
to be let back in at 5:15 AM. When I opened the door, I saw that
PSE&G had finally arrived to fix the situation. See below.
The situation is now back to the way it was
prior to May 4th. The hole is now covered back up with the same
piece of plywood. A third beat up traffic cone has been added to
the display. The PSE&G worker said he had not been notified
by anyone until earlier this morning, and that the plywood
covering was a standard PSE&G covering for open manholes; the
iron plate was reserved for larger holes cut into the road.
Please note: There is nothing on the display that clearly
identifies this as PSE&G apparatus. There is no sign saying
"In case of Emergency contact PSE&G at (phone
number)." Dono Nuthin is still in charge.
05/17/14 This morning I
noticed that someone had slammed into the PSE&G material in
the street, leaving it looking like this:
It appears to have been hit by a car driving
from north to south, then it seems "someone" got out
and piled up the pieces as shown. There was still a piece of the
road stand that had been thrown off to the left side of the
street in front of my house. Now that I knew it belonged to
PSE&G, I called them on their "Emergency" phone
number. Right. The Emergency number is exactly the same as their
regular number and I had to wait through the list of menu items,
which, of course, had nothing for reporting piles of crap left in
the street by PSE&G workers. Finally I spoke to a human, who
put me on hold several times, and then told me
"someone" would be out "soon." I am not
impressed by their so-called "emergency" phone
handling. As far as I can see, Dono Nuthin is still in charge.
05/18/14 - Still there. Still Nuthin Doin' from
PSE&G. Police cars still ride right by it, unconcerned. It
will take a major accident to get any action, I'm afraid. If
every driver that rides by it would honk his or her horn, that
might get someone's attention.
05/20/14 - (Four days
after I called PSE&G to report this new development) ...
Still there, for those of you who were worried that
"someone" with the authority to handle a problem in the
city of East Orange would actually do something about this. You
still have time to drive by and honk your horn. I've decided that
the P.S. in PSE&G which ought to stand for "Public
Service" actually stands for "Plain Stupid." The
green arrows I drew on the above photo shows that the big pipe
thingee is gradually turning from vehicle vibrations and the
wind. It's only a matter of time before it blocks traffic trying
to turn up Melrose or trying to pass on the right, or a vehicle
gives it a real whack and it goes flying. Dono Nuthin says,
"Don' worry about dit." Police cars and fire trucks
pass it regularly and none of them are worried. I think PSE&G
is purposely avoiding coming near it because I might photograph
them ignoring it also. I wouldn't mind so much, but the mayor claimed to be Focused on Service and a
Culture of Accountability and Performance in his state of
the city address. Hmmmm.
11:50 PM. Good news. I just saw the East Orange
City street sweeping truck actually back up and go around the
obstacle without cleaning that side of the street. So I guess
that makes it official. Members of our Department of Public Works
are also ignoring the problem and going about business as usual.
05/21/14 Sometime late
this afternoon the PSE&G "monolith" was replaced in
Sanford Street at the Melrose intersection. I did not see who
replaced it. I came outside at 6:30 PM and there it was. Note
that the broken stand was not fixed and that the whatchamacallit
chimney pipe is now leaning against the broken side of the stand.
One guess what will happen next. I've taken the liberty to point
out the two potholes that appeared on the side of the street
since that work began. I'm not fixing blame on who caused them in
a relatively newly paved road, but some cars are taking hard
"hits" when they get caught in them. Thanks to everyone
who honked as they passed by the broken exhibit. I don't know if
that raised awareness about the problem, but at least
"someone" finally "did something" after five
days when it was first reported to the PSE&G "emergency
Exhibits "B" and "C",
knocked four houses south on Sanford St.
05/23/14 If we needed
proof that PSE&G is staffed by a lot of damnfools, I offer in
evidence Exhibits A, B, and C above. I don't know when the
collision happened, but it was easily predictable based on the
previous photograph from 5/21/14. I again called the
"emergency" number, went through all the stupid menu
items until I spoke to a human and once again started to get the
"run-around" instead of having it handled like an
emergency. I pronounce them all "damnfools" until
proven otherwise. I rest my case.
05/23/14 - 5:10 PM DST Some time between the
time I called PSE&G and 4:30 PM when I next ventured outside,
"someone" had done this make-shift attempt at a
"repair." It had to have been some booby from the hatch
at PSE&G because no one else would have been able to provide
a shiny new chimney and not even bother to remove the old one
(Exhibit B) still lying in the street as PSE&G litter
(Police, take note! Enforce the anti-litter laws and give them a
I mentioned that I went outside at 4:30. I
inspected the quality of the work and observed that the new
chimney contraption was "plumb" or vertical at 90
degrees, more or less. By the time I got back with my camera, the
chimney was leaning to the north (compare to the plumb line in
green that I drew next to it). Guess which way it is going to
fall next time? Notice also that the manhole cover is no longer
holding down the plywood as it did before. That means the plywood
is free to slide back and forth as it did before. Notice also
that there is only one traffic cone, where there were once three.
That means whoever "fixed" it picked up the cone from
the lawn of 135 Sanford
Street where it had been knocked, and just ignored the
chimney litter across the street from it. The damnfools at
PSE&G must have a strong union if none of them are afraid of
losing their jobs over shoddy work or mismanaged supervision.
In taking the 5:05 Photo, I almost stepped into
the aforementioned pothole. It's the one furthest to the left in
the photo taken on 5/21/14 at 6:30 PM. I tossed a piece of litter
(a squashed water bottle) that I picked up near the spot to show
you how deep the pothole has become. No wonder cards and trucks
are causing such heavy vibrations to the area when they zoom in
and out of it at close to 40 MPH. The speed limit is 25 MPH in
this residential neighborhood, but no one, including the police,
seems to care about speed limits. The police are in charge of
enforcing the speed limits, but the Department of Public Works is
in charge of filling in potholes. Dono Nuthin is in charge of The
Department of Public Stupidity and therefore must be the
supervisor for both departments. He's the only one doing a good
job at doin' nuthin'. I'm no good at doin' nuthin' because I
collected the smashed water bottle and brought it home to my
05/29/14 Early this
morning at 8:30 AM, someone from PSE&G came by to inspect the
Chimney Thingee. I suspect he had seen this report, because he
came over to me and introduced himself, and told me that he would
be sending out a truck to repair the Chimney Thingee (I never did
learn its name or why it has been needed for more than a month
sticking up out of the street at such a busy intersection). He
said there was no danger of the Chimney Thingee falling because
it was bolted to the plywood, but that he was going to replace
the plywood with a special iron manhole cover that had a separate
hole for the chimney, etc. Note: He didn't say WHEN this would be
05/29/14 5:15 PM. I went back outside to work in
my garden and saw... surprise! Someone else had a close encounter
of the usual kind with the PSE&G Chimney Thingee. Apparently
those bolts aren't working as well at holding the Chimney Thingee
upright as the PSE&G Inspector thought they would. You can
see a distinctly further lean to the north in this photo.
Here's my problem: No one supposedly in charge
of this situation has any sense of urgency about it. It takes
PSE&G days to respond when an emergency is reported. They
seem to have no regard for the safety of those driving around and
past this rickety structure, or for the safety of residents and
passersby who might get hit by flying debris from it after three
PROVEN car collisions with it (now add a fourth collision for the
above photo). These are NOT ACCIDENTS. An accident is when a tree
limb drops from a tree in front of a car - no one can anticipate
that happening - that's an accident. Putting a rickety structure
in the middle of a busy street and then abandoning it for weeks
hoping no one will run into it is NEGLIGENCE.
POLICE DEPARTMENT RESPONSIBILITY - You KNOW that
cars regularly fly down Sanford Street at 35 to 40 miles per
hour. Police need to enforce the residential speed limit of 25
CITY RESPONSIBILITY: The city needs to put
temporary SLOW DOWN signs on both sides of the Melrose
Intersection. Perhaps a temporary blinking orange light needs to
be there as well.
PSE&G RESPONSIBILITY: This is a BUSY
intersection on a county road. ARROWS need to be added to the
display to let cars traveling south on Sanford know that they are
to keep to the right when passing it, and that they need to slow
down. Vehicles coming east on Melrose need to be aware of the
danger as well, and perhaps this requires a temporary NO LEFT
TURN sign on the display as well.
If someone gets hurt as a result of one of these
frequent and proven collisions, it will NOT BE AN ACCIDENT. It
will be NEGLIGENCE on the part of those who did not take
Registered Complaint #302 sent to the Mayor's
Office of Constituent Services on 5/29/14 at 6:15 PM.
05/29/14 6:50 PM The PSE&G WorryFree Truck
pulled up to the curb. The driver jumped out, went to the debris
and reassembled the next rickety replacement structure. Then he
hopped back in his truck and drove away moments after I took this
photo (he was already in the truck by then). I'm guessing he was
"worry free" about any consequences of his
The repair. The manhole cover has been placed on
top of the plywood. The broken plastic stand is leaning against
the north side, attempting to hold up the Chimney Thingee, which
still leans to the north. An additional traffic cone has been
added to the display, perhaps as a target for cars to aim at.
There is no iron manhole cover with a vent hole for the chimney,
as was promised by this morning's "inspector." No
attempt was made to straighten up the chimney or to tighten the
bolts that supposedly hold it to the plywood, and which are
surely gradually pulling loose. Now we wait for the next
collision or collapse, which is as predictable as the next rain
storm - we don't know exactly when it will happen, but
we know it will happen. We just have to hope it doesn't
involve injury or loss of life. Dono Nuthin is still in charge in
5/30/14 Just like that (!snap!) the problem is
gone. The chimney is gone, the lean-to is gone, the plywood is
gone and the traffic cones are gone. The manhole cover is back
covering the manhole and traffic is back to speeding down Sanford
Street at 35 to 40 MPH with no impediments. So, what was it all
about? Why did we need a chimney thingee in the first place? With
Dono Nuthin in charge, I am afraid we will never find out, but if
it happens in YOUR neighborhood, you know what to do.
In the meantime, we now know that the mayor has
failed on his promise to use the police department to keep our
community safe. An entire month went by with an unsafe road
condition being reported, which resulted in four vehicle
collisions with PSE&G equipment left unsupervised and uncared
for in the middle of a busy county road. I'd say that deserves a
big NEGATIVE. The proof is that on 6/5/14, when PSE&G came
back to Melrose and Sanford to work on the same problem, THIS
TIME the streets were blocked off, several police officers were
in attendance the whole day long to guide traffic around the
hazards, temporary signs were put up telling traffic to slow
down, and so on. They know how to do it
right. It's just that they failed us for an entire month
which resulted in the four collisions mentioned, and the real
possibility for more serious collisions, injury and damage for
the time that the situation was completely ignored, not just by
PSE&G, but the city departments as well.
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