By Beth David
The Fairhaven Selectboard held its annual emergency preparedness meeting with department heads at the West Island Improvement Association’s community house on Monday, 6/20. The discussion was largely uneventful, except for the annual and expected clash between Robert “Hoppy” Hobson and fire chief Timothy Francis.
The two had their signature argument about whether or not to leave a fire truck on West Island during a hurricane.
Mr. Hobson said that in the old civil defense plan, a fire truck was stationed on West Island. He said if one house burns, “they all burn.”
Chief Francis said an expensive fire truck does not belong on an island in a hurricane.
He said half the island would not burn, as Mr. Hobson suggested, because the houses are just not that close together.
“I’m telling you, 50% of the people are not leaving the island,” said Mr. Hobson.
“That’s their choice,” said Chief Francis.
The lots are only 60×100, said Mr. Hobson, reiterating his claim that half the island would burn.
“Have we ever lost more than on house here, Hoppy, in my 38 years?” asked Chief Francis.
For the rest of his presentation, Mr. Francis said that pets will be accommodated at a regional shelter that will be announced.
He encouraged residents to tie town lawn furniture and especially propane tanks.
He also cautioned people on the use of generators, emphasizing that people need to shut off the main breaker in their home if they use a generator. If not, then the power they generate will feed back through the system and cause harm to someone down the line.
He said people in the street will think the wires are dead because the power is out, but the wires will be live because a generator is producing electricity.
He said people should leave the island in case of a hurricane.
“You don’t belong on an island,” said Chief Francis. “It’s surrounded by water on all sides.”
He said if the causeway goes out, it will take a long time for emergency crews to reach people.
Police Chief Michael Myers said the decision to evacuate would be made about 24 hours before a storm was ready to hit. He said they would use reverse 911 calls and go door to door to notify people.
He also reminded people that they need to get hurricane stickers for their vehicles. In the event of a storm emergency, Sconticut Neck Road will be blocked off at David Drown Boulevard. Only those with stickers will be allowed to pass.
Superintendent of Schools Robert Baldwin said the schools run the town’s shelters, with the Hastings Middle School as the main shelter, and the Wood School as a backup.
Fairhaven shelters will not allow pets and people should bring their own bedding. A custodian will be on site, a school nurse will be on call and sandwiches will be available for those using the shelter.
He noted that in a blizzard, things are more difficult because not all personnel live in town, but a building will be open for people to re-charge devices, grab some food, or sleep.
Emergency Management Agency director Marc Jodoin said the town has 50 cots for residents to use. EMA volunteers will staff the shelters and help as needed throughout the storm, and with clean up efforts.
Harbormaster Timothy Cox said his department will try to notify boat owners so they can remove their boats from the water, or double up lines if they cannot.
“The best thing is to get the boat out of the water,” said Mr. Cox. “The earlier the better to get your boats out of the water.”
He said some insurance companies will pay to have the boat hauled. His deputies will be at the boat ramps to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Public works officials said that water in low lying areas will be shut off, which means no sewer, either. People need to plan by drawing water early, or leaving their homes. He said they will use reverse 911 to let people know when water is being shut off.
The water and sewer will be shut off, stressed superintendent of public works Vinnie Furtado, so people need to be prepared.
“You might get one good flush left.”
Water superintendent Ed Fortin said people need to be patient after the storm. He said they cannot simply turn the water back on, they need assess the whole system first.
“We will do it as quickly as we can,” he said.
“My biggest thing is having sightseers out during the storm,” said Highway Superintendent John Charbonneau. He said with trees down and lines down, it makes it “harder for everyone out there.”
Tree Warden Brian Bowcock said his crews and equipment are ready. He said they routinely handle trees down from small storms and coordinate with the fire department and police department.
He said that at the height of the storm, with high winds, they would “rather not” be out cutting trees, but will be out there immediately after the winds subside.
“We’re trained and ready to go,” said Dr. Bowcock.
Council on Aging Director Anne Silvia told board members she would love to have the senior center be the shelter, as in Acushnet. She said she knew they did not qualify, but made a plug for the change in the future.
Her department focuses on getting people out shopping and banking before the storm hits, she said.
She said seniors should let the COA and the fire department know if they are oxygen dependent or have other health issues. The COA keeps a list of elders who have no one else to look in on them, she said.
COA board chairperson Joseph Borelli added that people should pack for a week’s vacation if they leave their homes for a shelter. And remember the phone charger, he said.
Fairhaven Housing Authority Executive Director Krisanne Sheedy said her facilities do not have generators large enough to power the units. They have two small generators they can use for common areas, but they are not equipped for long term power losses.
“We do the best we can,” she said. “But we’re really not set up to be a shelter.”
To add your name and number to the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department Code Red (reverse 911) list, visit www.pcsdma.org/codered.html or call 508-830-6200.
To get hurricane passes, visit the public works department at 5 Arsene Street, Fairhaven, or call 508-979-4030.
In another matter, the board heard from John O’Rourke of Good Energy, with an update on the energy aggregation program the town is enrolled in through SRPEDD (Southeast Regional Planning and Economic Development District). The town is part of a group of 23 communities that have signed onto the agreement that locks in electric rates for residents.
Mr. O’Rourke said that during the first six months of the program, residents saved money on their electric bills. Projections, however, for the summer, show that residents will pay a slightly higher amount than they would if they had Eversource. The projections move back in the other direction, in favor of the aggregation rates, for the next six months.
Residents in the program pay the same amount each month. The projections and other documents are available at http://masscea.com/ and http://www.srpedd.org/energy-aggregation
The board also gave permission for the Bell Committee to put the Oxford School’s Paul Revere bell in Town Hall for display.
Committee member Doug Brady told the board it would be temporary. The committee will work with Town Administrator Mark Rees and Administrative Assistant Anne O’Brien to find a good spot in town hall.
The committee is still looking for a permanent home for the bell. Mr. Brady said that residents should be able to see it while they look, as it will be a long time to get it in place.
In another matter, the board appointed Keith Silvia to replace Rene Fluerent on the Zoning Board of Appeals. Mr. Fleurent, Ruy DaSilva and Mr. Silvia submitted letters of interest.
Board members said they agreed with ZBA chairperson Peter DeTerra that Mr. Fleurent’s position on the Planning Board could cause a conflict with the purpose of the ZBA.
The board unanimously voted for Mr. Silvia, noting his involvement various town activities. A contractor, Mr. Silvia has donated his skills for a variety of projects, including the time capsule in town hall and the Revere Bell crating. He is married to COA Director Anne Silvia, which was noted at the meeting.
Mr. Murphy said he felt the ZBA needed a contractor on the board.
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