Adams Declares State of Emergency to Deal With Flood Damage
The board unanimously voted the declaration at Wednesday's meeting with hopes that it would also pave the way for possible state funding needed to address the near $2 million in damages.
"It is a document and whether we use it to its fullest or not it opens the door for state aid," Emergency Management Director Richard Kleiner said. "It's a heads-up precautionary thing and some people may say it is like crying wolf, but I rather cry wolf and be prepared."
On Sept. 12 and 18, the town was hit by severe storms that left substantial flooding damage on Lime, Davis, North Summer, and Charles streets, among others.
Adams was the only community in Berkshire County hit this hard and no state or federal state of emergency was declared.
Last month, town officials took state Sen. Adam Hinds and state Rep. John Barrett III on a tour of the affected areas. The two legislators had initially put in for $680,000 for relief but after seeing the scope of the damage, this jumped to $1.6 million.
Chairman John Duval said this number has grown to $1.9 million, which he does not believe will cover all the damage the town is still compiling. The cost estimates are on par with damage inflicted by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
After a second unanimous vote to authorize spending in excess of appropriation, interim Town Administrator Donna Cesan said the town can immediately start deficit spending and make these important repairs.
"Our immediate focus is on public infrastructure where there is a loss of access for emergency vehicles," she said.
She said town meeting still must approve this authorization but because of the emergency declaration, the town can spend what it needs to and ask for approval afterward.
The Selectmen did not want to schedule a town meeting yet because the item was not on the agenda but the board does plan to hold a special meeting next week to set a date.
Cesan said they would be looking at a late October meeting and said she would prefer to schedule it sooner than later.
"To me, time is of the essence," she said. "As they say, winter is coming."
During public comment, the board heard again from residents still recovering from the storm and damage to their property.
Cesan said the town is investigating programs that may provide some relief to residents, but that the town's current focus must be repairing public infrastructure and preventing future damage.
"Give us a couple of weeks. Right now we are just getting cost estimates in for the public infrastructure and I don't mean to negate any of the damage to private property owners, but we have to look at this as a process," she said. "There are some short-term immediate fixes that the town really needs to make and ... there are long-range things we need to look at, so we can protect ourselves from future storms."
Duval added that there will be a public meeting next week when the storm damage will be discussed, and he encouraged residents to attend to air their concerns.
The Selectmen were asked why the storms seem to be so much bigger.
Selectman Joseph Nowak attributed the increased flooding to climate change and said the town's infrastructure cannot handle these larger storms. He added that the town's topography has also changed over the years.
"I live right across from the Miller Brook and the road right across from my house was washed out," he said. "I have lived there my entire life. I am 66 and I have lived there since I was 2 and I have seen changes in my river network."
He added that the town has to be smart in the preventive measures it takes because a total overhaul of the town's flood control would cost millions and is out of the question.
He did add that he was happy affected residents are working with the town.
"I am glad we are not pointing fingers at each other because that is not constructive," he said. "These questions are legitimate, and I think this is the best way to rectify this is to work together."
Tags: severe weather, state of emergency, storm damage,
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