|Red Cross Shelter Established For Spruces Residents|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
09:02PM / Tuesday, August 30, 2011
|Jeffrey Trask from MEMA toured both the park and the shelter that was established by the Red Cross as he began to assess the damage.|
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Inspections have begun in The Spruces Mobile Home Park but there's still no power and residents aren't being allowed to move back.
The Red Cross established a shelter at St. John's Episcopal Church that can hold as many as 50 people.
The state Emergency Management Agency representative toured the park on Tuesday to assess the damage while the town has begun inspecting each home.
Jeffrey Trask, the liaison between MEMA and the town, was brought up to speed about the flooding that forced about 300 people to find alternative housing and was given a tour of the park. Additional state agencies are expected to arrive on Wednesday including building inspectors.
"There is a team of state inspectors that is coming," Town Manager and Emergency Management Director Peter Fohlin said. "We're not saying that they've been condemned ... as the units are cleared for occupancy, electricity will be turned on."
There is no time line for when residents can return to their homes. First the inspectors need to find the problems, the park's owner Morgan Management will have to fix the electrical system and then residents will have to fix their homes, if needed, before they can return. Fohlin said he only knows of one person who has flood insurance.
About 20 people who do not have friends or family nearby will have to continue staying at a shelter, Sweet Brook Care Centers, Williamstown Commons or Town Hall.
"There are four people, three cats and four dogs that we could not find accommodations for," Fohlin said. "We took them in at Town Hall. They are all living at Town Hall."
Late on Monday night, the American Red Cross established a shelter at St. John's Episcopal Church on Park Street for the displaced residents. Meals, cots and necessities will be provided and Williams College has offered its showers.
"We do have a shelter open and they are welcome to come to a place that is safe," Susan Severin, the Red Cross shelter manager, said. "We're prepared for 40 to 50 people."
Red Cross volunteers came from across the country to bring "comfort kits" that include basic needs like shampoo, tissues, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste. However, it is not clear how long the Red Cross will be able to sustain the shelter.
"It's very basic sheltering," Severin said. "We're offering comfort and compassion."
While many homes appear to be unharmed, there is significant damage to electrical systems and foundations that will need repair before residents can move back in.
Some organizations, individuals and churches have offered donations of service and funds but nothing has been established yet to handle those, Fohlin said.
However, the First Congregation Church and St. Patricks Church are both accepting donations.
The First Congregational Church have been giving the residents vouchers for gas a groceries. Anybody wanting to donate can reach the church from 9 until 3:30 at 458-4273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
St. Patricks is collecting spare clothes, food, furniture and household items. Anybody interested in donating can call either the church or the Williamstown Food Pantry.
Also on Tuesday, residents were again escorted into the park to gather personal belongings and town department heads continued to meet to discuss strategy moving forward. Building Inspector Mike Card inspected about 25 of the park's 226 homes Tuesday. The town is using color coding system to signify the extent of damage.
A red notice is used for the worst homes and of the 25, only a few received those. A yellow notice is "optimistic" and requires the least amount of repairs. A yellow notice could be given just because the electricity is off. A green notice is OK for occupancy.
"None of the homes have been ruled green," Fohlin said.
There is still no estimate of the amount of damage that was caused by the flood. Most of the damage involved the electrical system, water flooding into the homes and spilled petroleum products.
Trask will continue to meet with state and local officials before MEMA determines what the agency will do. Trask was awed by the amount of damage but praised the way the town is handling the situation.
"You guys are doing a great job," Trask told Fohlin.