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More Shelter(s) From The Storm

Ralston and Black River are being considered by Mendham and Chester officials for shelters or warming stations should the need arise again.

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.

Ellen Runyon November 15, 2012 at 11:54 AM
From my standpoint, BRMS is the most sound option IF the two combined towns are going to use it. I ran the Warming Center this go around for the Borough. We did have showers available for the first week because we were housed at the Board of Ed Building. I personally did have to refer people over to Brookside the second week. I even had one woman who needed overnight accommodations. One day at the center we had over 300 people. I am not sure how many people would be able to be housed at the Barn. The middle school is already set up with showers, full size kitchen as well as room enough to set up cots. Another benefit at the middle school is having a Nurses office. When you have so many people displaced there are bound to be people who fall ill that may need some medical attention. Is the Barn Handicap accessible? I understand that BRMS was without power this go around. It would seem to be more beneficial to add a generator to BRMS which would be an ideal place for a shelter then to have one at the Barn a questionable area for shelter.
delwood dame November 15, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Agree with Ellen above BRMS would be smart move. However, Chester(s) need to also identify and preplare MULTIPLE locations on BOTH sides of town as North Rd was hit very hard and difficult to travel to. Sounds like hosting 250 -300 folks is a target #. I would ask town(s) to help add generator to our Chester Library. It has modern facilities and accessible to west side and downtown area if people had to "walk to" if need be. Twp bldg much harder to reach and restroom facilities honestly not up to par right now. BRMS and barn are directly across from one another so risk if both could not usable at same time. Again, need to have several back up plans in case one shelter had to be closed or moved or not able to volume alone. Glad to hear Mendham doing the same.
delwood dame November 15, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Mayors/Councils - Also why wasn't HOFFMAN Hall above FIRE HOUSE used? I would assume fire house has back generator and has some facilities t help folks short term especially if folks had to be evacuated. Sounds like Churches did an amazing job too offering dinners but not designated as "shelters" so to speak.
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