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Easton Officials Discuss Irene Aftermath

Officials commended the work of town emergency officials while questioning the responsiveness of National Grid and looking for ways to improve procedure in the future.

Board of Selectmen members agreed Monday night that the work of Easton's Department of Public Works, Fire Department and Police Department was commendable during Hurricane Irene and its aftermath last week, which resulted in numerous branches down, over 100 calls to emergency officials and loss of power for over 7,000 Easton households.

Some members of the board, however, were not pleased with the response from National Grid.

"You guys did a great job and I thank you for that," Selectman Todd Gornstein told Fire Chief , DPW Director Wayne Southworth and Police Chief . "National grid – their behavior was egregious."

Gornstein said that communication between the power company and the town needed to improve in the future, while expressing frustration that the company was not properly prepared.

Stone said that there may be some government intervention as a result of the company's responsiveness.

"All of the towns that rely on National Grid for their electrical service were in the same boat," he said. "It’s going to be referred to Department of Public Utilities."

The fire chief and police chief did acknowledge, however, that once workers arrived on Tuesday and Wednesday, conditions improved. Krajcik said that many National Grid workers in Easton were deployed from Michigan.

"They had to call from around the country – that kind of delayed things a little bit," he said. "Once they came they were very good to work with."

In addition to improving communication with National Grid, officials pondered ways that communications could be improved to residents during emergency situations and mass power outages.

While Stone and Board of Selectmen Chair said there is an Emergency Management Plan in place for the town, resident Anne Martin expressed frustration that the plan was not communicated to its citizens.

"The biggest frustration is we didn’t know what was going on," she said. "If there is an emergency plan, little 'Suzie Q' citizen doesn't know it."

Selectmen suggested sending flyers to residents that explain procedure in case of an emergency and posting information on the town website prior to an event like a hurricane or a blizzard.

Town Administrator David Colton acknowledge that the loss of power at town offices proved to be devastating to communication efforts.

"The first thing we need to do is get backup power in this building so our service is always powered, so if we have our service up we can communicate to others," he said.

While officials plan for the next emergency situation, town workers continue to clean up the mess left by Irene.

"We’re going to be very busy for many weeks to come," Southworth said.

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