Storm emergency workers

Atlantic City Electric workers eat food prepared for them Monday at Atlantic City Race Course in Hamilton Township.

Staff photo by David Simpson

Linemen and tree trimmers are eating at the Atlantic City Race Course while in the area to restore power and clear roads.

Workers sat in the concourse eating chicken and drinking soda in front of betting teller windows Monday night. The men’s shirts were stained from sweat and dirt. They sat at tables with their fellow crew members, eating quickly and heading back to the parking lot, sometimes eating an ice cream bar on the way out.

Roy Foster, assistant business manager with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 35, said there were about 500 linemen and 200 tree trimmers in the area. He said an additional 100 of each will arrive today.

“It’s 16 hours on and eight hours off for these guys,” Foster said. “Physically, it’s tough. Plus not knowing the system. To be a little cocky, because they’re IBEW, they’re well-trained, some of the best in the world are here. They can adapt to any situation, but it’s still tough. Physically demanding. You’re out in the heat. In the eight hours, you have to try to get back to your place, sleep.”

Out near the track itself, a High Point Catering cook grilled chicken for the workers.

Bob Egan, president of the Maryland-based company, said his firm was planning to feed about 750 people.

“We’re originally a barbecue company,” he said. “So we really specialize in working with nothing but what we brought with us. We start from scratch. So this is luxury for us to have a huge space that’s very functional. Especially considering we didn’t know about this until literally Saturday morning.”

When Atlantic City Electric had trouble finding enough lodging for the hundreds of emergency workers brought in to make repairs after Saturday’s storm, Lee Wasman, a Richard Stockton College graduate and state relations director for Atlantic City Electric, called college President Herman J. Saatkamp Jr. and asked whether the college might have some rooms available.

Saatkamp said the college had no power Saturday night, but generators were working at the Campus Center, so more than 100 workers joined a small group of about 30 summer school students in sharing floor space in the center.

“We moved 150 mattresses into the Campus Center on Saturday and moved them back out on Sunday,” said Dee McNeeley Greene, associate vice president for student affairs, who coordinated the housing. On Sunday, the college hosted about 170 workers in more comfortable quarters, the Housing V apartments, where each worker got a private bedroom. The college expects to host workers for at least the rest of the week.

“The students were great on Saturday helping to get ready,” Greene said. “We had them in a separate section of the Campus Center and put the workers in the food court and hallways. We stacked up the tables and chairs to make room.”

She said finding enough linens was a challenge. The college has some that are used for conferences and got some from its Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club. The rest were provided by Atlantic City Electric. Spokesman Matt Likovich said the utility went to Kmart in Glassboro, Gloucester County, for sheets, pillows and toiletries for workers housed at Stockton and at Rowan University in Glassboro.

Rowan spokesman Joe Cardona said the college provided about 75 rooms in its apartments on Rowan Boulevard.

Atlantic City Race Course in Hamilton Township is serving as a staging area for the workers, where they can get meals from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“We have a location for parking the trucks and room for the catering services,” Race Course President Maureen Bugdon said. “We did this during Hurricane Irene (in 2011), so while we didn’t have a lot of notice, we just did what we did the last time. They were here within about a half hour of the phone call.”

Likovich said Atlantic City Electric also made arrangements with Silver Coin Diner in Hammonton and Masso’s in Glassboro to provide food for the workers and would make any additional arrangements as needed. He said coordination of the staging area was similar to what the company has done in previous storms, but securing lodging was difficult because there were fewer hotel and motel rooms available.

He said all participating locations would be paid, but it was still too soon to say how much it will cost.

“We have not tallied complete storm restoration costs at this point,” Likovich wrote in an email. “Right now, our focus is on getting electric service restored for all of our customers.”

Saatkamp, who as of Monday afternoon still had no power at his home in Galloway Township, said he was happy the college could provide any service that might help get power restored to the area more quickly.

Staff Writer David Simpson contributed to this report.

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