The slow response included a lack of power to water stations, but the town was never in danger of losing it water supply. In addition, officials said they kept pressing for power restoration, which eventually helped to speed up response time.
The comments were made during a Tropical Storm Irene “post-mortem” session, which included members of the town’s emergency management team.
Acting Fire Chief Mark Dolloff, who headed the team, said there were no deaths or serious injuries resulting from the storm, but that power was slow to come back. He said about two thirds of town residents were still without power 72 hours following the storm, which was higher than any other community in the area.
“Town Manager Francis Crimmins expressed continued concern, and I’m putting that in nice terms, that the town of Stoughton was not getting its share of responses,” Dolloff said.
Dolloff said Crimmins and the town’s safety officers held daily conferences with National Grid and kept track of the number of utility crews responding to the power in town. He said they felt the town did not get an “appropriate response,” from the utility.
Crimmins said Town Hall got “hundreds’ of calls from people with problems during the power outage, including medical emergencies.
After it became apparent that Stoughton was not getting its share of responses, he talked with state officials, including the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Richard Sullivan, whom he said helped to get more crews into Stoughton.
In addition, the town got help from its local representatives—state senator Brian Joyce, and state representatives Louis Kafka and Bill Galvin, who helped to place pressure on the utility.
Dolloff said town officials will be holding conferences with National Grid to discuss power restoration problems. Although he was clearly unhappy about the utility’s response, he said he was very pleased with town safety, with no delayed responses to safety calls at any time, and communications running uninterrupted.
He said the town’s critical infrastructure ran well; that residents were able to get water and there were no sewage problems.
“I feel we were lucky that the storm happened in August. We learned quite a lot from this, and it helped prepare us better for the future,” he said.
Department of Public Works Superintendent John Batchelder said however that all but one of the town’s water stations did not have a back up generator, and many of those stations were not pumping water until Wednesday or Thursday (three to four days after the storm).
He said he was not concerned however because the town has an unusually large water tank, holding 10 million gallons of water, and the town always had access to it.
Selectman Steve Anastos asked Batchelder if he thought the town needed to improve infrastructure in order to be better prepared for weather emergencies. Batchelder replied that he had some concerns about the lack of back-up generators, but that the town was generally in “decent shape.”
Police Chief Paul Shastany said a tree damaged one of his police cruisers during the storm, but the officer was not injured. He said his department had a 100 percent increase in calls during the first 24 hours after the storm.
He said there were 54 downed trees, 26 downed wires, 32 problems with alarms, and 63 medical calls. Also three people were arrested for breaking and entering, who were “taking advantage of the weather.”
He praised his department for stepping up during the emergency, and said all the safety departments worked well together. He also said that the town got a better response for power restoration after calling in for assistance, but did not elaborate on who helped.
“Our voices were heard through the influence of certain high-placed folks, and we received assistance,” he said.