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Williamstown Rules Spruces 'Uninhabitable'
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
02:26PM / Monday, August 29, 2011
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Residents of the Spruces were escorted on Monday by the Police and Fire department personnel to gather clothing, valuables, pets and medicine.

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 [226] residences will need to be individually inspected," Fohlin said. "All of the [226] 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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