Will Seekonk's Emergency Shelter Be Moved?
Seekonk selectmen debate on what could have been done better in providing shelter for residents without heat or power during the recent blizzard.
Seekonk selectmen heard from various department heads Wednesday to determine how the government could improve the shelter facilities in the town.
Hurley Middle School is the only place equipped with a generator that can handle heating concerns, Town Administrator Pam Nolan said.
"We had radiant heat, but none of the blowers were on at the time," said Jim Roy, the school district's buildings and grounds supervisor. "It was 68 degrees. I've been working on seeing if I could improve that."
Roy said he tweaked the generator to get more power out of it to activate the blower to the library. The blowers are the vents and fans that distribute the heat from the heat source in the building.
Without that, the heat has to move through the building and concrete, severely slowing the heating of the surrounding area.
Nolan said Hurley's purpose during the blizzard was to provide residents with heat and was never meant to be an actual shelter, which is somewhere to sleep.
She said that the designated area for an actual shelter was the La Sallette Shrine in Attleboro, but during the last blizzard, she said she could see why residents did not want to risk the trip due to road conditions.
Fire Chief Alan Jack said even for emergency calls, the fire and medical service personnel had to rely on plows from the Department of Public Works to reach a 911 call, let alone transport residents to the Attleboro shelter.
"Logistics during this past storm were difficult," he said. "After speaking with [Fire Capt. Michael Healy] in meetings when I returned, I knew there was a serious issue."
Bernadette Huck, director of human services and the council on aging, said she talked with personnel in other towns and learned the town could save money by storing cots, blankets, pillows and other non-perishable items in pods or truck containers.
"The Duxbury [COA] had a container from the Red Cross since 1983," she said.
She said after nearly 30 years, the supplies hadn't gone bad and would be an investment for the town.
Nolan said if the town wants to move the shelter area from the Hurley to the yet-to-be-constructed senior center, they would have to move on that plan before it is designed.
She said to be an active shelter, there were requirements from the state on what needed to be available even in the design process of the building.
"If you wanted that building to serve as the shelter, then it has to be built to certain requirements," Nolan said. "It affects the whole building. We would have to right now decide to do that so that the building would satisfy requirements."