Town Manager Peter Fohlin speaks with Spruces residents at the park's recreation hall on Monday.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Town Manager Peter Fohlin in a noon meeting with residents of the Spruces Mobile Home Park assured town residents that the town's emergency shelter is ready to go.
The doors to the shelter at the elementary school will be opened when the need arises. But Fohlin characterized that need as the request from any resident who feels he or she is not safe in his or her home.
"If anyone gets anxious, report to the police station," Fohlin said. "The police will escort you to the Selectmen's Room on that side of Town Hall, and I'll contact [Director of Public Works] Tim [Kaiser], and we'll open the shelter.
"I guess the way I'd put it is: We all have a key."
Fohlin spoke to an audience of more than 50 residents of the mobile home park, site of devastating flooding during 2011's Tropical Storm Irene.
Spruces Property Manager Marilynn Kirby described the mood of residents as "panicked," but said sessions like Monday afternoon's meeting do allow residents to feel more empowered this time around.
"Because Peter Fohlin and all of his officers have been so proactive," Kirby said. "They've met with residents three times in four days. We didn't have that last time. We were caught unprepared."
Fohlin emphasized preparedness in his remarks in the Spruces' Recreation Hall, encouraging residents to have their bags packed and be ready for evacuation on a moment's notice.
Kirby said as of midday Monday, she was aware of no one in the park who had taken that step.
The Spruces currently is home to 103 residents in 67 homes. Kirby said she did a door-to-door check on Sunday evening, and everyone was staying put for the time being.
"As of then, no one had moved out," she said.
In an email to the media sent following Monday's meeting, Fohlin described the town's sheltering capacity in greater detail.
"Any and all Williamstown residents who develop a need for shelter before or during the storm should call or report directly to the Police Department," Fohlin wrote. "We have prepared three levels of response including Town Hall, a local motel, and the elementary school. At the elementary school we have a standby emergency generator, cots and blankets, food supplies, and staffing.
"The decision to open the elementary school in preference to the other two alternatives will be made based upon the number of people needing shelter and the expected duration of the event."
Kaiser said the shelter at Williamstown Elementary School has been outfitted with a 100-kilowatt military surplus generator owned by the town. That would enable the town to keep the gymnasium and kitchen running in the event of a prolonged power outage. The school also has a supply of cots and pillows.
A military surplus generator is ready for action at the elementary school.
Fohlin said the town has chosen not to open the shelter unless it is needed because it does not want to require American Red Cross personnel to staff a shelter unless someone needs to stay there.
"We are not taking the step of opening a shelter to which no one may have need to come," Fohlin said.
"You are welcome to come. We will open at 3 p.m. (Monday) if we have one person who wants to be there."
Fohlin said he had a conference call scheduled for 1:30 Monday afternoon with the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., and Williamstown Fire Chief Craig A. Pedercini was scheduled to be on a conference call with National Grid at the same time.
Based on the most up-to-date forecast available, Fohlin said the area could expect to see about 3 inches of rain (far below the 10 inches Irene dumped on the town), but high winds threatened to cause power outages.
One piece of good news he offered: The area is currently expected to receive its peak wind gusts of 60 mph at 5 p.m., which has moved up from 8 p.m. As Fohlin noted, the closer those winds come to regular waking hours, the easier it will be to deal with power outages.
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I'm happy to be the first to thank our Town Manager, DPW, Police, Fire District, Village Ambulance, and all of our other excellent first responders - Town Clerk, Administrative Assistant... and so many others at Town Hall for their thoughtful and timely response to this potential emergency.
It's comforting to know that you all work so hard to leave the light on for us....