Rate increase requests by Jersey Central Power and Light and United Water Toms River in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy draw fire from Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari.

Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari (Townsquare Media NJ)

He's demanding that state regulators freeze all utility rates for the next three years, while ratepayers rebuild and recover from storm damage.

“Our home and business owners deserve a break from utility companies that constantly seek to suck more money out of their ratepayers pockets,” Vicari said in a prepared statement.

Vicari also used the opportunity to point out, as he has repeatedly, that Ocean County has no representation on the five-member Board of Public Utilities - and to push for inclusion.

In a stern message to BPU President Robert Hanna, Vicari described his first-hand view of "the difficulties our residents are facing in Sandy’s aftermath” as liaison to the county's Consumer Affairs and Senior Services departments.

“Families are digging deep into their pockets just to repair or rebuild their homes. They should not have to worry about rising water, gas, electric or cable television rates.”

He also suggested that a rate freeze would go a long way to boost morale among homeowners struggling to rebuild.

"An across-the board rate freeze would send a clear message that the BPU stands hand-in-hand with our residents and is ready to help rebuild our communities.”

He again lobbied for a gubernatorial appointment of an Ocean County representative on the board, saying that shore communities traditionally endure extended service interruptions from storms of varying sizes.

He also noted that the board needs a representative who understands the unique needs of Ocean County's seniors - the highest number of any county in New Jersey.

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