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Wilbraham to foot the bill for microburst cleanup

Date: 8/8/2011

Aug. 8, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM — In the wake of the second strong storm to batter Wilbraham over the course of the last two months, the town was able to quickly spring into action and begin the cleanup, but it will come at a cost.

The microburst that struck the town inflicted a great deal of damage, especially to trees and forestry in the area, but the destruction did not qualify for aid from state or federal agencies.

“The microburst did not meet the $8 million threshold and therefore is nor reimbursable through FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] or MEMA [Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency],” Patrick Brady, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said. “Therefore, the taxpayers will foot the bill for the cleanup.”

Despite not qualifying for aid, the town was able to act quickly in getting a contractor into town to help residents remove debris, such as fallen tree branches, that littered properties.

Residents have been allowed to put yard waste they consider too large to bring directly to the Disposal and Recycling Center (DRC) on the tree belt for pickup. The final round of debris pickup is scheduled for today.

“We were able to leverage an existing contract the state has with Northern Tree Service,” Brady said. “Because of that, we were not required to put the cleanup work out to bid and they were able to immediately get out there and start picking up waste.”

However, only large limbs have been allowed in the pickup process, leaving residents to get rid of smaller brush and vegetative debris, as well as damaged construction material, themselves.

The DPW has been doing as much as they can to aid in this process by opening the DRC every day to allow residents an opportunity to dispose of damaged materials.

The DRC will continue this until Aug. 10, with today and tomorrow dedicated solely to storm debris disposal from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Full services will be available on Aug. 10 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The DRC will be closed on Aug. 11 and return to normal operating hours on Aug. 12.

Residents were also supposed to be afforded the opportunity to speak with representatives from Gov. Deval Patrick’s office regarding disaster assistance on Aug. 1, but it was canceled. The reason given to the town for the cancellation was that meetings in other towns had been poorly attended.

Brady said he was frustrated with the process surrounding the meeting, including the fact the Board of Selectmen were never given a clear indication on what was to be discussed.

“I asked for an agenda and they didn’t have one,” Brady said. “If you want to have a meeting with us, I feel you have to tell us what it’s about.”

While residents continue working to clean up their property, the town has concerns about municipal properties as well.

The Wilbraham Children’s Museum, which recently held a bottle and can fundraiser to help with repairs and new playground equipment needed after the June 1 tornado, sustained additional damage, as did Adams Cemetery on Tinkham Road.

Philip Hamer, cemetery commissioner in charge of Adams, said a portable toilet that was in the cemetery for workers clearing trees from the June 1 tornado was lifted off the ground during the storm and tossed over 100 feet. It crashed down, damaging three additional headstones.

Minnechaug Regional High School was the only school in town to sustain any damage, as part of the roof over the pool, some windows and the scoreboard at the football field all require repair, Brady said.

He also marveled at the fact that the new Minnechaug being built on the same campus as the old one was not touched by either storm.

“It’s ducked serious damage twice, which tells me it’s going to be a pretty lucky place to be in the future,” he said.

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