Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?
These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.
Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...
...seems to be working so far
Saturday, November 5, 2011
A Fuster Cluck To End Them All, I Hope
Monday morning quarterbacking has been around forever.
Annoying as it can be for the casual observer, it is not a fruitless exercise to work out just how something went so awry, the following morning, it can provide useful insight despite the poor timing. What is annoying is that those that preach what they would have done didn't have a clue what to do when it was actually happening.
Today, I want to share, vent, and offer some suggestions in the tradition of those annoying quarterbacks. Can't do one without the other. If one is going to complain, or vent, then one had better have a suggestion for improvement, or be available to help find one.
So, what the hell happened this past week here in Central, and Western Massachusetts? We had a heavy snow storm in October while the trees were still fully leafed out, and trees did what one would expect they would do during storms like this: they broke. They broke and fell onto utility wires around the Commonwealth, and utility services stopped at the moment the branches fell.
Doesn't take a rocket surgeon to know that this can happen. Utility companies know it. Communities know it. It is not some magical event that happens once in a lifetime. As long as there are over head wires with trees above them, or beside them, those wires will be affected anytime the weather gets rough.
It is as sure as my finding lint in my pocket. It is inevitable.
I don't want to define insanity again, but that definition holds true in this case as well.
We have to change what our response is. By "we", I mean both National Grid, and the town.
First of all, work on those "Priority Lists" that list the buildings, streets, facilities that are a priority to reopen, and keep open. The Public Safety Building being numero uno on the list followed by the town water treatment plant, town barn, and town water pumps. This then has to be done annually, and as changes occur.
All main roads running through the town, that is, the state roads that are numbered, and relied upon by neighboring communities to transport people to Harrington Hospital must be restored, cleared, and repaired before any secondary road is touched, unless there is a major safety issue elsewhere. Keep in mind, these are ideas, and directions, not finely tuned plans.
Second of all there needs to be a "Crisis Control Czar", or committee appointed. Their job is to asses the damage in town, with the police, and report it to the Town Administrator, Board of Selectmen, and others within the town that require the information. They will also be the contact person(s) for all of the utility companies. From this group, in conjunction with the utility companies, priorities will be set based on immediate, and emergent need.
Updates will be made to the town throughout the day by the utility crews, and the town will also update the utilities of new issues, and safety concerns that have arisen.
This is a two way street that responsible, professional groups are running on to accomplish common goals: restoration of services, and the safety of those affected.
Very much a no brainer, and something that, if done correctly, will result in a lot less frustration for those affected.
The third item on this list of changes is to do a bit more trimming than National Grid currently pays for. All trees on our country lanes that have branches hanging over the wires need to have the branches removed. It's that simple. We all love the dappled sunlight peaking through the branches on a summers drive through the country. Shady country lanes are what we are, but we need to make some hard choices today.
Going underground with all our utilities would be cost prohibitive, but in certain areas, it could be done. Historic areas, downtown areas, areas where the trimming of trees would affect the landscape in a severely negative way would be areas that either going underground, or rearranging the location of poles, and wires could be done. In all other areas, such as Route 148 beyond the I-90 bridge, and around Warren Road, there should be a clear cut zone under, and above the utility lines.
Nothing hanging over the lines. Yes, there will be winds that knock over entire trees onto the lines, but still the overall damage over time will be millions of dollars less.
This is common sense.
Over the next few days, and several weeks, what has transpired here in town, and across the region, as a result of the No' Easter, will be reviewed, debated, and discussed. Fingers will be pointed, blame appointed, and plans drawn up. It is the implementation portion that we seem to fall flat on most of the time. When Hurricane Irene hit us this summer, the Priority Lists were found to be severely outdated, but a review of those lists, and an update of the information was not done.
Now, it is 7:00 PM on Saturday night, November 5th. Here on Brookfield Road we have had power for just over a day. Six days without. No excuse for being without power that long on a state road when there were hundreds of power company workers staying in town, and heading off on those compromised local roads every morning without repairing the damage.
At this moment there are still people without power here in town. One week after the storm, days after the snow has gone, in fairly pleasant temperatures, these folks are still living by candlelight.
I want to hear what is going to be done to prevent future "fuster clucks" such as we just experienced from happening, not only at the utility company level, but at the local level.
The TA, and the members of the BOS are going to seek answers, and a new plan of action. We were all in this together when it happened, we need to be in it together as well as we move forward.