by Mary Grow
At the instigation of new board member John Melrose, Vassalboro selectmen invited town emergency responders to their Jan. 11 meeting to talk about response to the October 2017 windstorm, which left many parts of town without electricity for days.
Representatives of police and fire departments, First Responders and the public works department agreed that cooperation among town agencies was generally good. The main area of misunderstanding, Fire Chief Eric Rowe said, was between local residents and Central Maine Power Company. He questioned whether CMP officials put as much emphasis on public safety as local people do.
Rowe said emergency responders cannot touch anything that touches a power line, like a tree blocking a road, no matter how sure neighbors are the line is dead. Should a generator be feeding into the line, anyone trying to remove the tree could be electrocuted.
Consequently, he said, firefighters had to tell frustrated residents they could not help until CMP showed up. When the firefighters left, residents often dealt with the problem themselves, he said, despite the danger. The policy leaves no one happy.
Road Foreman Eugene Field added that he offered equipment to assist CMP, but his offers were not accepted.
Vassalboro emergency personnel recognized that CMP and imported crews were dealing with a major situation and delays were unavoidable.
Field said his crew and state transportation people had no problems working together.
When Melrose asked about hypothetical future needs, the only suggestion was a large well-equipped emergency shelter with handicapped access and a guaranteed power supply.
Selectmen dealt with routine business items for the rest of the meeting, including:
- Completing the sale of a tax-acquired former subdivision on Ilona Drive;
- Renewing the annual agreement with Kennebec Water District for operation of the China Lake outlet dam in East Vassalboro; and
- Signing a letter of intent to apply for Community Development Block Grant funds on behalf of Vassalboro Sanitary District to help with the planned hook-up of Vassalboro sewers to Waterville and Winslow.
The next regular Vassalboro selectmen’s meeting will be Thursday evening, Jan. 25, at the new time, 6:30 p.m. Town Manager Mary Sabins said the agenda is likely to include an updated presentation on LED streetlights.
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