Power has been restored to most and life is returning to normal in our post-Sandy region, and officials in both Mendham and Chester have begun the process of looking into at what went right and what could go better for the next time.
One of the things on everyone’s mind was additional shelters and warming stations for residents who are without power and water.
“The west side of the town is essentially stranded,” said Mendham Township Committeeman Frank Cioppetini at the last committee meeting. “We need to look into opening a second emergency services shelter there. Possibly putting a shower out in the Ralston Firehouse.”
Mendham Township Mayor Sam Tolley said that may need to be factored into the next budgetary cycle as an upgrade, but also noted it won’t be as elaborate a setup as the one in the Brookside Emergency Services Building.
“I think the town residents would pay for that,” Cioppettini said. “This is the second year in a row we’ve gone through this and this time around we had fatalities.”
Over in Chester, members of the Chester Consolidated School District Board of Education (representing both Chester Borough and Chester Township) said at their Monday night meeting they wanted to meet with the governing bodies to discuss improved communication and the use of their facilities as shelters.
“One of the things we did talk about was using Black River Middle School as a shelter,” Business Administrator Mary Jane Canose said.
School board member Heather Ronco said reaching out and letting borough and township governments they wanted to talk about improving the situation was a good idea, but fellow board member Gary Lakritz had one caveat.
“As soon as we start talking about our facilities they are going to want us to start paying for it,” Lakritz said.
Tuesday at the Chester Township Mayor and Council meeting, Mayor Bill Cogger said he was exploring converting the Highlands Barn into a warming center.
“We’re working on the Barn as a community center and I think we are going to accelerate that for the next budget cycle,” Cogger said. “We would need to add a shower. We have water, sewer and a kitchen and heat. We would need a generator.”
Cogger noted they were lucky during the last storm they were not contacted and required to move anyone into a shelter.
“It is very difficult to be certified as a warming center through the Red Cross,” Cogger said.
Councilman Matt Kass suggested using the Middle School rather than put money into renovating the Barn.
“The Middle School has everything already there. Showers, locker rooms, kitchen,” Kass said. “I don’t know why we would spend money there when we have a place across the street already there with what we need.”
Cogger said the generator to power the school would need to be purchased and that Black River is currently their emergency shelter as part of their OEM plan.
“But power was knocked out there too so it was unusable,” Cogger said.
What do you think? Does Mendham and Chester need more shelter facilities? If so, where would you like them? Tell us in the comments below.