Little progress made on emergency center move
by Margo Avakian
Feb 07, 2013 | 1196 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HALIFAX- At the beginning of January the selectboard charged co-emergency management directors Lewis Sumner and Justin Berry with preparing a report on the best approach to relocating the emergency operations center. The town’s EOC is housed in a small room at the fire station. During Tropical Storm Irene, that location was vulnerable to flooding. It was also found unsatisfactory for communications, poorly ventilated, and noisy.

Co-EMD (and board chair) Sumner reported that he and Berry have met twice with residents who volunteered to help with the task; another meeting is planned for early March. “The recommendation,” Sumner said, “is to leave it at the fire station for now and look into a trailer.” The trailer would be used for storage and as a mobile communication center.

“On what basis was the recommendation made to leave it at the fire station?” asked vice chair Edee Edwards. Sumner replied that town clerk Patricia Dow doesn’t want the EOC at the town office and does not think there is enough room to store the center’s equipment and files. “Is Patty Dow in charge?” Edwards asked. “Or is this a selectboard and community decision?” “As the town clerk,” Sumner said, “she’s in charge of the office.”

“She has final say?” asked an incredulous Edwards. Edwards also disputed the supposed inadequacy of the office space, saying that there is less space at the fire station.

At that point board member Earl Holtz shifted the discussion to the advantages of creating a mobile unit, allowing operations to be set up in whatever location works best in a given situation. Edwards was not opposed to the trailer idea, but said she needs “to be sold.”

Edwards said she had expected to have a report from the EMDs “in hand.” At the least, she expected something more than a proposal to continue with an unsatisfactory arrangement while looking into spending a lot of money on a trailer.

Linda Lyon commented that there is still no comprehensive analysis of the town’s emergency needs and resources. Lyon said that she has attended the meetings held by the EMDs, but is not the leader. She decried the lack of agendas and of defined, prioritized goals. Lyon said that, in her view, the town has “made no progress since Irene.”

Margaret Bartenhagen, another citizen volunteer, agreed that the meetings have been unfocused, “diffused among all the things that need to happen” instead of attacking one specific goal at a time.

“What’s the barrier?” Edwards asked. “Were we not clear about what we want accomplished?” She suggested holding a special meeting to set very explicit goals and formatting for the EOC relocation process. Contenting himself with a brief comment that, in his experience, directors are expected to direct, Holtz agreed. The meeting will be held Saturday, February 9, at 9 am.

In other business, highway supervisor Bradley Rafus reported that the new truck has been picked up and is being serviced. The town repurchased salvage from the burnt truck for $4,900. Rafus estimates that the purchase will help the town realize about $40,000 in savings by rebuilding rather than buying a second new truck. Christina Moore, of Storm Petrel, reported that extensions for ongoing Irene restoration projects are moving normally through the FEMA approval process. Board members will attend a planning commission meeting on Tuesday, February 12, to discuss flood zone identification and regulations with John Bennett, of the Windham Regional Commission.

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