Westfield moving toward recovery

WESTFIELD – Emergency Management Director Jim Wiggs will report to the City Council tonight concerning the ongoing recovery effort from the devastating October snowstorm.
Wiggs will address the council under communication from Mayor Daniel M. Knapik.
“We’re getting really close,” Knapik said this morning of the city’s efforts to clear tree debris and restore power to residents.
Wiggs said this morning that between 150 and 175 people have been staying at the emergency shelter and that meals have been provided to more than 500 people coping without power and heat.
“On Saturday, we lost power to a little more than 80 percent of the city,” Wiggs said. “The Westfield Gas & Electric Department has made good progress in getting the main circuits back on-line and moved into neighborhoods Wednesday.”
Wiggs said that the emergency shelter, located at Juniper Park Elementary School on Western Avenue, will remain open through Friday as power recovery work continues.
“We’ll keep the shelter open until we feel there is no longer a need,” Wiggs said. “Starting Friday evening we’ll assess that need on a day-to-day basis.”
Public Works  Superintendent Jim Mulvenna said that city crews and hired contractors continue to cut brush to clear the city’s roads.
“We have eight contractors and four PW crews out basically doing the same thing we’ve done all week, clearing brush,” Mulvenna said. “Those crews have been augmented by people from the Army and Air National Guard armed with chain saws working up in the Shaker Heights and Colony Drive areas today.”
Sean Fitzgerald of the WG&E  said that the DPW trees removal efforts has facilitated restoration of power.
“Wednesday was a big day,” Fitzgerald said. “By the end of today we’ll be at almost 90 percent. We’re working on residential areas today that were blocked by trees and limbs.
“We’ve had an injection of personnel with nearly 80 crews on the ground working,” Fitzgerald said. ” This has been a round-the-clock effort.”
Fitzgerald said that, as the primary circuits are brought back onto line, the focus will switch to individual residences where trees and limbs took the service line, between the utility pole and the residence, down.
Residents will have to hire a private electrician to inspect the damage to their homes, internally and on the exterior, before the service line can be restored.
“Customers are understandably frustrated, but they have to make sure the service attachment on the house is in good condition so it can be attached to the pole,” Fitzgerald said.
Knapik said that total cost of the city’s emergency response will not be available for some time, but that the city has the financial resources, including an additional $385,000 in state unrestricted aid which just approved and had not been included in the city’s budget, available to cover immediate expenditures.

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