Town Hall, Other Town Buildings Closed Due To Irene
By: Diana T. Barth
Bourne officials were given a choice in the wake of Irene: either restore power to town hall and some of the homes surrounding it, or restore it to some 2,000 residential customers. NStar had the resources to do one or the other in a timely fashion, but not both.
Bourne’s public safety departments all have alternate locations from which to operate—the police station, fire stations, the Department of Public Works garage at the landfill, and the Department of Natural Resources, the town’s marinas—so officials opted to let governmental offices in town hall wait.
By Tuesday, Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino said, NStar was saying it might be this coming Sunday before power could be restored to all of Bourne. That, Mr. Guerino said, was “unacceptable.” He and the town’s emergency management head, Charles K. Noyes, were hoping for a higher priority.
By last night, Town Hall had full power, but officials estimated that their were between a thousand and two thousand residents, in isolated pockets, still without electricity.
Tuesday morning, however, the use of an emergency generator made it possible for a skeleton crew at that building to answer phones, Mr. Guerino said. No toilet facilities were available, however. Mr. Guerino said the sewer department’s George Tribou got quickly to work, hoping to add the building’s septic system to the items being powered by the building’s emergency generator.
Yesterday, since the toilets were able to flush, town hall personnel came back to work, albeit to limited power. They had lights, and toilets, but few computers and no printers or fax machines. At least they were able to answer the phones. They also, Mr. Guerino said, could do the file maintenance and cleaning chores that are put off in any office because of higher priority work.
Finance Department staff, who needed to prepare payroll, were without full power, but were able to use an operating computer in the selectmen’s office that had financial software installed to complete that work. A check-in with the Bourne Health Department found people dealing with day-to-day issues; they had already checked in with area restaurants to remind owners about the necessary steps to be taken in case of loss of power. They found no major storm-related health issues.
The Bourne Veterans Memorial Community Center was not operated as a shelter during Irene, given its location in flood-prone Buzzards Bay. Three people came into the Bourne Middle School to shelter, however. Council on Aging Assistant Director Patricia Houde volunteered to work that shelter, staying 24 hours at that location, Mr. Guerino said.
The community building, not far from town hall, was open and operating yesterday morning, working on full power. Staff there were ready to assist those who needed functional bathrooms, a place to plug in phones and computers, or who just wanted to watch television while their own power was out, building Director Lisa A. Plante said yesterday afternoon.
Ms. Plante said the building might have reopened Monday or Tuesday, power having returned. However, power lines were still down in so many places, town hall was still closed, and staff had their own homes to clean up. She said it made more sense to wait until yesterday morning to reopen the building at the same time as all other town offices.
Mr. Guerino said he followed the town’s storm protocols in making the decision not to open the center on Tuesday, having first conferred with Charles K. Noyes, the town’s emergency management head. The elderly residents of Bourne Oaks, a housing complex on Boxwood Court in Buzzards Bay, were without power, but given that it was fair weather this week, it was determined that they would best be served by bringing food to them rather than trying to move them into the community building to shelter. Had the building been need as an emergency shelter, it could have been reopened in a timely fashion, Mr. Guerino said.
He said that he would be discussing possible changes to the storm protocol that closed all non-essential town departments and would be meeting with public safety department heads next Wednesday for the customary review of the town’s storm response.
Red Cross delivered dinner to about 118 Bourne Oaks residents on Tuesday evening. Mr. Noyes, a former Bourne police officer as well as the town’s emergency coordinator, had arranged for that delivery, as well as for food for the residents’ breakfast yesterday morning. As of yesterday, the power was back on to those residents.
Selectman Peter J. Meier reported that the community room at the Bourne Housing Authority-run Roland Phinney Place had emergency power, and residents came together to have breakfast, and then brought potluck in to be cooked for lunch, the beginning of a community get-together, courtesy of Irene.
COA Director Mandi Speakman said yesterday that all her senior center programming had resumed; and that it would be soup and sandwiches at the Community Café today.
The Bourne Friends Food Pantry, on Commerce Park Road in Pocasset, lost power, Ms. Speakman reported, but pantry Coordinator Ann Marie Riley and her husband were able to relocate the pantry’s perishables to Falmouth, where space in a communal pantry freezer and refrigerator was available. That prevented any losses.
Luckily, Ms. Speakman said, it was the end of the month and stock was lower, making such a move feasible. Pantry personnel would be doing their end-of-the-month shopping and stocking up and would be open for business today, as usual.
The Jonathan Bourne Public Library lost power Sunday, but it was restored Tuesday morning. With other town offices closed, however, all town personnel were advised to stay home, and the library remained closed as well. Library Director Patrick W. Marshall, Assistant Director Diane M. Ranney, and Children’s Librarian Terry L. Johnson were in early on Tuesday morning, preparing for a scheduled staff meeting.
When work was cancelled for the day, they spent the morning putting everything in order.
Bourne patrons who had power came to the library all that afternoon, assuming that it would be open. When staff came back to work yesterday morning, they were greeted with a mound of newly returned books.