The Hoosic River flooded during Hurricane Irene and caused massive damage to the mobile homes in the Spruces.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Every home in the Spruces Mobile Home Park has been ruled uninhabitable by the building inspector and nearly 300 residents need to find alternative housing.
According to Town Manager and Emergency Management Director Peter Fohlin, wet electrical systems, flooded homes and spilled petroleum products caused by the overflowing Hoosic River during Tropical Storm Irene threaten the park's safety.
"Each of the  residences will need to be individually inspected," Fohlin said. "All of the  homes are conditionally uninhabitable."
On Monday, the residents were being escorted into their homes to gather any pets, medications, valuables and clothing. Kim Purcelli, the park manager, said she is advising people to take a week's worth of clothing because it is uncertain if and when the park will be reopened.
"We have to do what we have to do for the residents," Purcelli said. "We are all in this together."
A total of 273 people live at the park and most of them will be staying with family or friends. However, there are at least 20 people that town officials know have nowhere else to go.
On Monday, officials and the park owners were meeting with a representative from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to assess the damage and figure out the next steps.
"The is no projected re-occupancy date," Fohlin said. "The shelter can't stay open because of school. There is a real dilemma."
Between 40 and 50 people from the park were evacuated to the shelter at the Elementary School during the storm, Fohlin said, while most of the residents stayed with family and friends. For those without local friends and family, town officials are currently working on a mass sheltering plan, Fohlin said.
While town officials projected 20 residents will be homeless, Purcelli said she expected it to be more. Some residents spent Sunday night in hotels they can not afford and are scraping what money they can to continue staying there, she added.
Residents are told to give their contact information to the park managers and they will be contacted when it is safe to go back.
"People are taking their pennies and walking down to Stop & Shop to see if they have enough for another night," Purcelli said. "They have nowhere to go."
Purcelli is asking residents to call the park's number, which has been forwarded to Wheel EstatesMobile Home Park in North Adams that the managers also operate, and provide contact information. From there, the managers will contact residents with information as it comes.
The damage has not been assessed yet and neither park managers nor town officials have a projected time line for it to be reopened. The river did recede the park at a much quicker rate than expected.
Purcelli said she did not expect the storm to cause as much damage as it did. The park flooded much quicker than the managers expected, she said.
Purcelli added that a security company is expected to be hired to watch the park. Last night, many residents waded through water in an attempt to get back to their unsafe homes, she said.
The park lies in a floodplain and flooding has been a constant threat over the years.
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Has there been any word on how the community may be able to help these people?
Town Manager Peter Foehlin has been trying to close the Spruces for years and turn it into a park. Now he thinks he has the perfect excuse. A nice lawsuit against Foehlin, the building inspector and the Town of Williamstown is in order to get residents of the Spruces back in their homes where they belong. Is there damage there? Sure there is. But it is easily repairable and who best to repair than the people who have to live there.
These people are without shelter through no fault of their own. It seems to me the Red Cross or some other agency should be able to find them temporary housing until they are able to reclaim their homes. Most are retired or fixed income residents who certainly don't have extra funds to spend on hotel/motel rooms.
I was wondering why the people who live there have to walk in and can only remove a couple of items. During day light hours they should be allowed to enter and begin clean up before it's to late. My brother lives there his trailer has very little damge but clean up needs to start soon - his neighbor's trailer has no dagae at all - Their not even allowed to clean out freezers and refridgerors. Just a poor way to do this. Water has gone down - roads are safe - no gas leaks - lets get to business before it's to late to save some of the trailers.
Why are the residents not being given emergency contact information and assistance? Where is the Red Cross? It would be helpful to put up contact info. Also, the residents should have been able to drive in and gather essentials. I was there helping relatives and the roadblock and heavy police presence was uncalled for. The water had gone and the roads were clear.
This is insanity and the pictures shown are only of very minimal damage. It is literally a wateland in some peioples homes but it is all they have got and the cannot start over. They are too old!! They are willing to clean up the mess mother nature dumpped on them just to stay in the only place they know. These are our parents, our grandparents. You just can't turn them away. This country has eachothers backs durring emergencies. We all helped support 9/11 and hurricane Katrina even I myself. Well now it's in our own back yard! Where's the humanity? Lets do the right thing and support our neighbors! I will donate my time and money to help and so should everyone else.Just for the love of God tell us how to help them save thier homes?!!!
The Spruces has become a very important part of our community.Many of our friends and family have come to rely on this quant moble home park as safe haven for those of us who cant afford more lavish homes, many of us are reaching retirment age and live on fixed incomes. Where else are we to go? Most of us own our moble homes and in this economy it would be next to impossible for us to relocate. The spruces may not be much to some, but to those of us who call it home it is our world. I hope that in our time of need this community can band together and help keep this park open.I understand that williasmtown has a reputation to uphold, being a college town, but everyone who lives here is important to us and the Spruces will continue to provide affordable housing to those in need now and for years to come if we are allowed to re-build. I hope that everyone who has been displaced in this horrific event has a safe place to go and i hope that soon we will be back in our homes.
This just happened YESTERDAY, folks - while it is very upsetting, you are not being abandoned to fend for yourselves. The Town has come to the aid of the Spruces residents in the past, and will do so again - both in an official capacity, and in a community capacity.
Please try to settle down and give the officials a chance to inspect the properties individually. The above poster's comment about Town Manager Fohlin wanting to make a park of the Spruces is RIDICULOUS and downright hateful. Don't be sucked in by such crazy talk. Nobody has said that residents can't ever go back, they just can't go back YET.
It takes a little time for things to get underway after an emergency - keep your wits about you and don't panic. Williamstown is a charitable community, and despite the hateful talk, we will not turn our backs on our neighbors.
I lost everything twenty-five years ago in a fire, so I know what that feels like. But you haven't lost everything yet! Keep calm, keep your heads on - and DON'T LISTEN TO IDIOTIC GOSSIP.
What gets me is why town managers think they have the right to keep everyone out of their own personal property? Try doing that to someone who has wealth. You'll get sued. We should be helping these people find a place to stay and clean up the mess rather than putting them out in the street.
Guy- Every day counts. Keeping people from recovering and caring for their property is wrong. The water damage will destroy 10X more if you don't clean it up and dry it out. Wet carpets will cause mold and rot.
I agree with the person who posted about management not allowing people in to clean up during the day. If there is no gas leak or any other major issues than the residents should be allow in to start cleaning. Leaving the homes just sitting there is going to result in mold growing, which will create more problems. Let the residents in with family so they can get more personal belongings and to clean during the day and before more rain comes. It is unfair how the residents are being kept from their home which they either own or rent.
I'd like to thank the Williamtown police and all the volunteers that taken the time to help the residents of the Spruces. I know they've been bombarded with questions that they don't know the answers to but have done their best to find out for us.
It would be nice if Mr. Folin could appoint someone to keep us residents informed of what is going on. Just because we have a place to stay doesn't mean we're not homeless. We are eager to get back home and get to work and do what needs to be done. Neighbors are ready and willing, with their sleeves rolled up, to pitch in. Just let us go home. The longer we wait the harder it's going to be.
Help turn this feeling of hopelessness back to hope.
Unfair- I think the local gov is keeping them out. That is what it sounds like from the article. Perhaps the moderator can clarify? I don't think the Spruces could legally be able to keep people out of their private property.
You have to wonder how many other homes in Williamstown were condemned? I know other properties went under water.
How about the church on Main Street that was given to the daycare center by a $250,000 Community Preservation Act fund gift? The Spruces are affordable housing even though they may not meet the legal definition.
Now the fund is almost dried up. Otherwise a special town meeting could be held to vote for funds to provide some funds to speed up fixing up the park and hiring outside inspectors to do so.
Editor: Town managers do not make these decisions; health and building inspectors do.
Town managers have a lot of influence in cases like this. I'd like more information on the law that allows the town to ban people from their homes, how and when it is excersized historically, and other examples of it being used after this storm.
my boyfriend lives there- his home is covered in mud- he was allowed to get medication and shoes and socks- he was told it was sewer contamination and some petroleum leak, people- this stuff has hepatititis C written all over it, and while yes- everyone should be able to get what they can, it is important not to bring ecoli or other harmful bacteria to themselves or the outside. we are just a frustrated- but try to be patient, what is gone is gone- what we can recover we will be thankful for- I will be more than happy to help clean out- your home is your home.
Watching everyone yesterday waiting to get into their houses to take out what they could carry was heartbreaking. Most of these people are elderly and are emotionaly and financially devastated. How much of their belongings do you think you could carry out in a few minutes. They couldn't even bring their cars in to load them up. My father is one of those people. They need to get into their homes and try to start cleaning them out. The longer they stay wet, the worse it's going to get. If they let us in to start the cleanup alot of these trailers would be salvagable. But no, everything they own is in their and they can't try to save it. The mold is going to start and then they have no chance. Where is the justice in this.Most of these peolple are on a fixed income and have nothing. Where's the help for these people? Let us in there soon !!!
As pastor of First Congregational Church in Williamstown I am sorry to see there is not yet any official place or phone number for people to get help. There are many people in our churches eager to give help with food, shelter, even clothes and linens, but we don't know how to get in touch with the people who NEED help. Please tell folks to call one of the churches in town if they don't know where to turn, and as soon as we know where the Red Cross has set up, we will communicate that. Meanwhile you can sit and rest here. office: 413-458-4273
what I dont understand is what "conditional uninhabitable" means. What is CONDITIONAL? Is there anyone who can answer this question for me? All I know is I have my parents staying with me right now which is not a problem for my family, but my mother is very handicapped and cant make the stairs up or down. I feel helpless as I am sure most of the residents of the Spruces do,
Too many heros not enough commmon sense .let the people clean their homes .I have never seen so much stupidity. Just talk to the insurance company and there will be lawsuits.Take your heads out of your hind ends and let these poor people clean their homes
To Daughter - The homes are conditionally uninhabitable because the condition(s) of the home make it unsafe for habitation. Another way to put it would be to say functionally uninhabitable - in that the functioning parts of the home are not working or are in otherwise unsafe condition.
This could mean plumbing, electric, structural damage, and perhaps most importantly, public health. It's not just a matter of wet and dirty property - they haven't ascertained a LOT of things, for EACH individual home.
If there is raw sewage (highly probable), then imagine the types of disease factors the residents would be exposed to - some diseases have the potential to be highly contagious, even to the community at large. Wet electrical, lost electrical grounding. Structural failures. Exposure to hazardous chemicals (my grandparents lived in the Spruces, and I remember all the "stuff" in my grandfather's shed).
Just for starters. Try to remember that our officials are charged with public safety, that's what we're paying them for. This isn't something political or nefarious or stupid or silly.
And may I point out that - while the Williamstown community is poised to help the residents of the Spruces, there are some awfully unhelpful remarks being made here. Remarks which are neither necessary, nor true. Rather than throw demands and accusations around, it might be wiser to take a deep breath and be patient while people are acting on your behalf, and rallying around you as neighbors.
You are in need, but at the moment, you are not in charge. Nobody likes that feeling, but nobody likes hysteria and whining, either. Be careful what you say, and be careful what you listen to. You don't need a foot shootin' here.
A lot of people are very confused and I can understand why. I am in the public services field and have seen this many times before. MASS CONFUSION!!! My grandparents who are in their 80's live there and have so for some time. Like most of the people there, that is all they have. They went in yesterday and again today to get some stuff. They told me that the floor in their trailer has buckled and in their own words "Doesn't Look Safe". MEMA has now taken over and in regards to the Red Cross and where are they, the town did not call them until a day after it was flooded(day to late). I, like many of you who are reading this article look after their parents and grandparents who live there. I made all the calls today (Spruces, Red Cross, Mema, Town Hall, etc..) and gave each one their contact info. One of two Red Cross shelters that are up and running is the Episcopal Church on Park St. I sent them there today to sign up so they can receive any info, goods, etc.... that they can get from them. Please do make sure your loved ones are also signed up and contact info is given. We all know how stubborn our older folks are!! Andy Rinn is the Red Cross Contact person at the Park and he can be contacted through the Red Cross @ 413-442-1506.
I have multiple long-time family friends who live in the Spruces. All of the are elderly, some with family in the area, most are alone. Watching this thread unfold, has been both inspirational and disheartening. No matter how you cut it, it is impossible to imagine the potential of losing your home and everything you own at any age. But for most who live in the Spruces who are elderly, lived on fixed incomes, have limited mobility, and some without local family support, the stress is unimaginable. What seems to be happening is a lack of effective communication to both the public and community who want to help and the residents who are caught in limbo.
Spruces has been deemed unsafe and uninhabitable due to public health reason, damaged power and electrical systems, and raw sewage. Do you want your elderly parent, grandparent or friend exposed to potential hazards that could harm them? No of course you don't. You can't just go back in and clean up raw sewage and mud with a mop and bucket. And no matter how you cut it, having to personally inspect 240 homes is going to take time. No one has said yet they will NEVER let them back in, they are concerned for the residents safety and health. But what seems to be lacking is the following:
1. Where can the public go, or who can we can to donate money or supplies.
2. How are the residents being updated daily and Who's in charge of that
3. Where is there a list of contact numbers or a location that residents can
go for services.
4. Who will announce and when will they announce the projected time-line
for potential clean up or return to the property on a house by house basis.
5. Where is the public announcement from town officials with the showing of
support, were is the game-plan for
the Spruces residents in regards to services, immediate housing needs and the
the potential return to property.
All of these rumors and issues can be solved with better communication and disbursement
of information to the community who wants to help and the residents in crisis
I have lived in the Spruces for a number of years and have a lot of dear friends there. I know first hand that the town fathers along with Williams College have been trying for years to close the Spruces, I think it is horrible that they are taking advantage of other peoples misfortunes. The flooding also comes from the trees that Mr Wonderful Barrett cut down to expand his airport for North Adams. Lets all come together and help this people, cause Morgan Magement won't and don't believe Prucell as she has no clue what is going on.
Flood waters usually carry disease. I recall a flood in Connecticut when all in the area of the flood were required to get typhus shots even though had not been in the waters or had waters enter home.
The sludge left behind by floods is disgusting and all precautions should be taken. People need to be patient.
It might make residents feel better if a meeting in a large hall could be held where all problems are explained and information on various means of help are announced. Help could be given for filling out forms for help, insurance, etc.
In other words, co-ordinate in one place at an announced time. As officials know more there could be more meetings and a Help Line.
I Berkshires- Please answer below to the best of your ability. Thank you.
A lot of property got flooded during this storm. How many other residence/ property owners were subjected to this kind of eviction in Williamstown? ... who else was inspected?
What is the legal recourse for these people who have been told by the town that they cannot collect their private property?
How is it that a housing inspector has the ultimate/ sole authority (according to the moderator here) to banish people from their homes indefinitely without any legal holding or order from the town/ state? How is it that he has the right to invoke the PD to only allow people to gather goods by foot, in limited quantity? Please site appropriate law. Who gave the order to the police?
If it is so dangerous, how is it decided who gets to collect what/ when and why? Why on foot if so dangerous? Why at all?
I am not seeing any sign of support from any elected town officials? Is there anyone elected offering support and trying to find a way to get these people back into their homes? No call for support... even if monetary only at this point to offer hotels, places to stay?
If there is an elected official taking the lead on this please let us know how to contact him and where the town thinks we should put our resources... I am willing to give money right now-yesterday. This is not Katrina- this is a manageable number of people who can be cared for in a small town. Everyone seems willing- except our leaders. Why?
The last word put out on the common town webpage on this disaster was AUG 27- that seem ok to anyone else?
Editor: The housing inspector is not the sole authority; that actually lies with the Board of Health. The BOH has policing power over violations of the state sanitation code. However, many of sanitary regulations also fall under state building codes.
Although there has been no information of an official number to call for help, today the office of the First Congregational Church has been acting as a sort of triage center, trying to help match people with the resources they need. There is an official Red Cross shelter at St. Johns church on Park St. (go around to the back door off the parking lot) for anyone who doesn't have a pet. But through a number of generous donations, we at the First Congregational Church have been matching people and temporary hotel stays, also giving vouchers for gas and groceries. If there's a need for clothing or linens, we are trying to help with that as well. People who would like to give donations - either helping to pay for a room, or getting gift cards to grocery or department stores - can get in touch with us between 9-3:30 at 458-4273 or firstname.lastname@example.org We also have an available computer if folks would like to get online.
There will also be a meeting for local clergy and/or church reps to get organized to respond to this local crisis on Thursday morning at 9 a.m at Congregation Beth Israel, the synagogue on Lois Street. We are also hoping to organize a prayer vigil for next Sunday afternoon.
What is the deal with Williamstown having to be the top-notch, good looking town of the century? Just ask yourself who are the people in 'control' of the town, or the majority of people who attend town meetings? Are they not more or less the same average age as those who lived in the Spruces? You want to change the Spruces into a PARK? Give the people who lived there their homes back. They are safe and well maintained. They sure are not houses of worth up to 100k, but i assure they love and care for their small, beautiful homes more then any of you rich, selfish, unrealistic, fake, scarred. absent minded, stuck ups.
Maybe with the help of some news stations we could get some answers.I'm sure that they would love to follow this story through iberkshires. And see that iberkshires is supporting some strange views and comments
Editor: Supporting? I don't understand the comment.
What answers do you need? The Red Cross has established a shelter and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has begun assessing and inspecting the damage. That's what we know so far. We are trying to find out about donations. If anyone knows, please tell us here or on our FB page.
What is sadly lacking with this Town Manager is compassion. He is a typical beaurecrat who does not understand people are scared and worried. Where are the Selectman who are the elected officials? They are quick to give breaks to certain powerful restaurant owners who serve minors but cannot be bothered to help the moderate income people of the town. Where is the college to help out? Williamstown is great with talk but when it comes time to walk the talk they fail to measure up. I do hope that iberkshires stays on this story as you may be the only hope that these people have. You can hopefully embarass these people into doing something just by letting the public how Town Government and the best liberal arts college in America took a walk when people in their town needed help.
H. Carter, One of the residents took it upon herself and contacted Jane Allen and Brian O'Grady. From what I understand they are trying to find the answers to the many questions we have. Someone will be handing out fliers to residents at the Spruces entrance with information on a day to day basis.
If any of the residents have questions that aren't addressed in the flier just tell the person handing out fliers and they will be passed on to Jane Allen and Brian O'Grady.
Editor; M. Folin made the suggestion to turn the Spruces into a town park in front of the select board a few years ago. That's why when something like this happens we residents think the worse.
Bob, Your right as far as the flooding caused by the trees taken down on Luce Rd. That effects the west side of the Spruces. But it has never caused record braking flooding such as this.
The east side of the Spruces flooded as well. Which I have never seen in the 20 years I've lived in the Spruces. From what I've heard and read North Adams drained a foot of water from the reservoir, during the worse part of the storm, which didn't help. Then the levee breached. Was it the run off from the reservoir that helped in breaching the levee? I don't know what the answers are but time will tell.
Town officials have been warning us for years that this could happen to the Spruces. Of all the places to locate a mobile home park: in a flood plain and flood way! Didn't anyone in 1954 think the ineveitable would happen when they set the park up? I think the tenants at the Spruces have known since day one what a risk it is living there. So unfortunate.
To Judy G - Town Manager Fohlin did make that (at the time, humorous) remark - long, long ago. I'm sure you know all about the many troubles that Morgan Management has presented the Town of Williamstown and our community resources, through it's reckless disregard of the many public safety failures present there.
Sometimes, public-service human beings make remarks that they regret, out of sheer frustration with the circumstances. Along comes the video camera, which unfortunately, sometimes allows a shallow community understanding of the background of a situation. Out of context.
Do yourself and your neighbors a favor, and go after the real villain in the piece - Morgan Management.
Fohlin is your BEST FRIEND at the moment. This is crazy talk, and you are barking up the wrong tree.
If you want to put blame, put it squarely at the feet of the LANDLORD.
Does anyone know if FEMA has been brought in? FEMA has grants available from $3000-$30,000 depending on circumstances. The number for FEMA is 188-621-FEMA, I don't know if Spruces residents are eligible but it might be something to look into.
atleast one spruces resident has spent years diligently destroying the riverbank next to his trailer. spruces management and ma epa knew of his activities and looked the other way. just ask around, the same name will keep cropping up.
to Billsville resident, is this comment made as you sit in your 400 thousand dollar home? nopt every has the luxury of choosing where they live- to them their homes are just as much a castle as yours.. if all you can afford is a mobile home- its still your home!
get off your high horse, why don't you come down and pitch in!
Nancy - I hope you won't continue with your shrill comments from here on in.
That would make you... part of the problem.
Try to be grateful for the help you've received.
Every resentful, ignorant word lowers the amount of donations that might be willingly given, everywhere, by regular people, to the ENTIRE Spruces. The Williamstown community is generous, but you test our generosity with shrill demands, even before it has all has been sorted out.
Nobody OWES you, it's the generosity of your town upon which you now depend. That hurts - we know.
Please spread this message to your friends and neighbors...
Don't bite the hand that feeds you.
Settle down, Nancy. Think about your future, and the future of your neighbors - and PLEASE try to take a big-picture view of the situation and circumstances at hand.
Guy- Your comment to Nancy is wrong. People do owe each other something in Williamstown. It is a wealthy community. We cannot afford to let another working class bastion die here- or else we will get more of the same. The town kept people out of their homes after a flood, and that has caused mold. Just as everyone predicted/ knew that it would. Hopefully federal and state money will assist with this effort.
Her comments do not stop me, nor anyone else who knows that the town has a serious issue with the working class from giving money. The town has a class problem that has grown worse over the years. A serious separation of wealth- which can be largely seen geographically by known landmarks- such as the RR tracks. It is time that we stopped gentrification at the expense of the working poor. Natioanlly, and locally. What kind of a community are we if we do not assist these people and do everything within our power to keep them as the valuable members of our society that they are?
Anyone else notice that the editor leans heavily towards town gov on the issue of local gentrification rather than being a neutral party in this discourse? More social justice and fair play with the working poor is needed in Williamstown. A lot of people agree with me. Working people are sick of our wealthy institutions being able to develop at will, even tear down historic lansmarks like the theater building, while the working class cannot get a license to build a storage shed, a playground or a fence.
Also- why can I only "agree" with the editors comments? Anyone else have this issue? The editor should not have an "agree" "disagree" button if you can only "agree".
Editor: There appears to be a problem with "editor's comments." Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Also, the editor has no opinion on "local gentrification" in Williamstown. I've tried to keep my comments related to facts.
The town manger stating that the spruces should be turned into a park is a matter of public record.
This very article (Williamstown Rules Spruces 'Uninhabitable') points to the fact that the town of williamstown was heavily involved with the initial eviction, and the enforcement of it.
If you are going to state "facts" to refute peoples statements, then you should at least verify that what you are saying is accurate- especially when you are challenging well documented truths- as well as the title of the article you are responding on.
At any rate, there really is only one important issue- that these great residence get to stay here they belong IN WILLIAMSTOWN. We shall see how this one shakes out... how many are forced to move, and if this becomes our "mini Katrina".
Well finally it is nice to be back home and what is sad is some of the good folks I swam laps with, joked around with are gone it is sad. I am ever so grateful for all the community donations that provided me shelter and transportation help. Many thanks to Gail and Robin and the community chest. I only wish I knew the other donor that put me up at The Holiday Inn so I can send a thank you note. Regarding the inspections, it all turned out for the best, as I had some safety issues that have been properly addressed and now up to code. I have been told a new pool pump and filter will be in place next memorial day.
I pray to God everyday that somehow, someway that the almighty will put it in Robert Morgan's heart to turn over the east side of the park in functional condition to the tenant's association so us remaining tenants can run the park as a co-op. Also why can't FEMA reliniquish some of the mobile homes to the folks, like Mrs. P and a lot more can come back home to all their friends. Something good has got to come out of all this, I hope.
As a Spruce resident, I agree with the pool man's comments about how wonderful the community support has been. Shame on some of you who tried to exploit the elderly and homeless. Redwood Motel may the good lord rebuke for the way you have sinned and deceived a lot of us helpless folks. John all you cared about is how quick you could line your pockets $$$$$$. The place was dirty, you copped an attitude about providing towels and godforbid if you were to clean someone's room. People like you need to get the hell out of our community. God knows your heart as he examines the kidneys and he must be up in heaven puking his guts out over your unethical business practices