When President Barack Obama visited New Jersey last week, he vowed to cut the red tape. His promise to local officials was that a call to the White House for help would be returned within 15 minutes.
Colts Neck Mayor Jarrett Engel happened to be taking a break from the chaos at that moment, and decided he would take President Obama up on the offer.
As thousands still sat without power, heat or water in Colts Neck, their mayor was attempting to get help from the federal government.
And within minutes, Engel said he received a call from a low-level White House staffer, which led to calls higher and higher up the food chain.
"That phone call led to 10 other phone calls, ended up speaking to FEMA," Engel said.
A higher up FEMA representative stopped in Colts Neck yesterday, as Engel explained the desperate situation for some with backed up septic tanks and elderly with no heat.
"We had a really wonderful conversation," the mayor said. "If it wasn't for the federal government and a call from a small-town mayor, we would not have crews in Colts Neck restoring power."
Engel said he also requested basic necessities for residents, such as water, ice, flashlights, batteries, food and blankets.
This morning, Engel said more than 25 utility trucks rolled into Colts Neck, a move even the JCP&L representative was unaware of.
"I asked our representative what the status was, he said it was the same," Engel said. "Meanwhile, I'm staring at 25 trucks. [JCP&L] has no idea what is going on."
Engel, as many local officials are, is extremely concerned with the senior citizen population in town. He has been knocking on doors at all hours of the morning, trying to get seniors into temporary housing.
"They do not want to leave their houses, they are doing desperate things," Engel said, adding some are running cars in the garage for warmth, but are unable to open the garage door or reach the emergency chord to allow ventilation.
"It is one tragic thing to have storm-related deaths, it is another to have deaths related to hypothermia seven days after the storm. If I can do anything in my power to prevent that, I will."
What Colts Neck needs
As power is restored, many are still without heat or water. Colts Neck has several comfort stations, but Engel said what they need now is volunteers to run them.
"It's a story of struggle in a small town, our volunteers are keeping this town together."
To find out how you can help, call any one of the comfort stations or simply drop by.
- First Aid Building on Heritage Lane
- Fire House 1 on Route 537
- Fire House 2 on Conover Road