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Selectmen ponder ways to do better next time

SALISBURY — The Oct. 29 snowstorm and its aftermath was the main topic at the November meeting of the Board of Selectmen.First Selectman Curtis Rand said, “In one way, it was a dress rehearsal for something much larger and much worse.”At the time of the meeting (4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 7), there were still about 150 homes without power in town, Rand said. (By 6 p.m., that number was down to 130.)Jacquie Rice from the Salisbury Volunteer Ambulance Service reported that the warming center at the ambulance building operated through Thursday of last week, with a steady stream of people coming in — “a couple of hundred,” she estimated.The shelter set up at Salisbury Central School, with a capacity of 50 beds, served five people the first night and two the second.Rand said the town crew was plowing Saturday during the storm until 11 p.m., and were back at it Sunday from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.Rice said having the roads cleared promptly was a big help. Restoring power meant establishing priorities, and the list went as follows: Sharon Hospital, Noble Horizons, the warming center and the shelter.Rice said, “People really didn’t want to leave their homes,” preferring to venture out for a hot meal, warming up at the warming center or in nearby towns with power (such as Millerton, Sheffield and Great Barrington) and then spending the night at home.The ambulance service, with the Salisbury Visiting Nurses, did wellness checks for people known to require oxygen or medications.“Next time we need more from CL&P,” Rice said, adding that once the power was on along main streets the crews seemed to disappear.Rand was critical of CL&P as well. He said that while the utility did provide the town with a liaison person, and that person did his best, “communications were totally broken down from up above.”“CL&P needs to give them [the liaison people] more authority and crews.“And now we find out that the Falls Village substation is a service center, nine days in,” said Selectman Bob Riva. “They should have done that first.”Selectman Jim Dresser said, as the response to the storm is analyzed, one thing to look at is how to reach out to people who may be stranded and have limited or no means of communication.Luckily, Dresser noted, “a lot of neighbors checked in and reported.”In response to a question about more proactive tree trimming by the power company, Rand said that in 10 miles of roads, there were 17 areas where power lines were affected by downed trees. “Our issue was more about response — many lines were clear, they just needed recharging.”Rand also reported that tree warden George Kiefer had compiled a town-wide list of trees that look like they could present problems for power lines.Notes: The selectmen voted unanimously to reappoint town clerk Patty Williams to a four-year term, ending in November 2015.

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