The roll had been called, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited and the Kearny governing body was about to tackle its agenda when, suddenly, its members were left in the dark.
It was the Town Hall Power Outage of 2015.
Emergency battery-powered exit lights provided limited illumination and a backup generator kicked in to feed police and fire communications systems.
Several Town Council members powered on their cellular phones for the light, gamely hoping at the time that they could carry on somehow.
But those hopes dimmed after town officials noticed that some apartments and shops on Kearny Ave. had also gone dark as light rain fell outside.
And, after learning from PSE&G that the situation was not going to be remedied anytime soon, Mayor Alberto Santos – speaking in virtual darkness – made a command decision.
The council would adjourn its meeting, he said, to 6 p.m. Monday, March 16, and conduct its business then.
But when it was pointed out by town CFO Shuaib Firozvi that Kearny faced a Monday deadline to submit its application for $2,125,000 in state transitional aid, along with its introduction of the 2015 municipal budget, the mayor said that the town would ask Trenton if it could get a one-day extension.
If not doable, Santos said, then the council would convene Friday, March 13, in special session to consider both matters.
As it turned out, Trenton – and its fiscal monitor assigned to Kearny – granted the town the extra day to complete the process, Santos said last week, so the council was expected to meet on the 16th to deal with those financial issues, along with other agenda items, including the appointment of six new police officers.
During the early stages of the blackout, police personnel relied on portable radios and firefighters used a backup radio console at the Maple St. dispatch center for communication until a power supply could be run from a transmitter to a phone line at Town Hall, according to Fire Chief Steven Dyl.
Soon after darkness descended on the Municipal Building and a five-block stretch of Kearny Ave. — (for safety reasons, the Avenue was blocked off to local traffic between Oakwood Ave. and Liberty St.) – Dyl said the Fire Department was alerted to smoke seen coming from a manhole at the intersection of Kearny and Quincy Aves.
And there were reports of other underground burning at nearby corners, the chief said.
“We suspect that had something to do with the power going out,” Dyl said.
Interestingly, exploding manholes were reported at around 5:30 p.m. last Tuesday on Bloomfield and Claremont Aves. in Montclair, according to The Patch website. The Montclair fire chief was quoted as saying that the bursts were likely triggered by a short in an electrical vault. PSE&G had no explanation for the incidents.
Still, PSE&G spokeswoman Erica Jordan said Tuesday night that, “The Kearny outage was not a result of the manhole pops. It is related to an issue with a network circuit and our crews are working to restore power.”
Early Wednesday, PSE&G spokeswoman Lindsey Puliti reported that, “A contractor was digging in the street and damaged an underground cable near Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. and Scott-Mobus Place in Harrison. PSE&G crews are on site making repairs today.”
Puliti said the area in Kearny that experienced the outage “is tied to the same circuit network as Harrison. When the cable in Harrison failed, it also affected customers in Kearny.
“There were approximately 26 customers without power in the vicinity of Kearny Ave. The outage occurred around 8 p.m. and all customers were restored by 2 a.m.”