Story Category: Live Updates »
Citizens, Town Officials, Discuss Hurricane Response
North Beach, MD - 9/10/2011
By Marty Madden
Once again the new North Beach Town Hall is at the center of controversy. This time the debate isn’t over its size or cost but over its use in times of emergency and accessibility. The discussion took place during the Thursday, Sept. 8 town council meeting during the public comment period.
The initial concern came in the form of a published letter submitted by Norma Jean Smith, who identified herself as a “long-time North Beach resident.”
Smith wanted to know why the town hall wasn’t open to the public Sunday morning, Aug. 28 during the waning hours of Hurricane Irene.
“Many of us came to town hall looking for information and a hot cup of coffee, and to find out how serious a blow Irene made in our town,” Smith wrote. She stated she had spoken with the town’s former mayor, Mike Bojokles. “He reminded me that our $2 million town hall was built larger to incorporate a generator, kitchen, shower facilities and a larger council chamber specifically to be used as a shelter for residents in a weather-related, emergency event, and as a community building. Town hall was intended to become a base-needs center in times of community need but that did not happen the first time we needed it.”
Some of the citizens who commented during the meeting indicated access to the town hall would have been helpful since Irene left them without electricity for several days.
No one in attendance had any other criticism to offer regarding town officials’ response to the powerful storm.
In his monthly report, Department of Public Works Director Don Bowen reported that three days before the storm staff began their preparation by testing all backup generators, back up pumps and storm-related equipment. One day before the storm sandbags were made available to citizens. “Staff along with volunteers filled approximately 800 sandbags as residents picked them up,” Bowen stated.
The town staff monitored the storm and Bowen reported it rained continuously for 24 hours. The estimated rain total in North Beach was 10 inches.
During the hurricane, the stormwater pump on the beach at 5th Street came on around 3 p.m. Saturday and until 10 a.m. Sunday nonstop,” Bowen stated. “Chesapeake and BAY Avenue flooded around 9 p.m. until 3 a.m. Sunday when the pump could not keep up with the heaviest rainfall. Staff had to refuel the pump on the beach Saturday. Overall, due to not much in the way of tidal surge the town fared well. Unfortunately, several residents did experience damage to property from fallen trees.”
“We did a lot of things right,” said Councilmember Mike Benton, who concurred with some of the residents that the doors to the town hall should have been open that weekend. “I’m just saying we could have done better.”
Mayor Mark Frazer admitted the town’s public safety committee “might need to look at how to respond better to power outages.”
“All of these comments help,” said Councilmember Gregory McNeill, adding the feedback will help North Beach leaders plan for the next emergency.
A former town employee, Calvert County Commissioner Pat Nutter [R] attended the meeting and reminded residents that the county’s Department of Public Safety had shelters located and staffed during and after the storm. Nutter indicated county leaders will also evaluate their response to Irene.
Contact Marty Madden at email@example.com
Be The First To Comment On This Story!
Send This Story to a Friend!