While local dialogue on Hurricane Sandy has at times been contentious, Tuesday's New Castle Town Board meeting also included time to give thanks for the many people and groups who helped out in the community after the devastating storm came.
“In times like this we remember what community is about. Our heart goes our heart goes out to everyone affected by the storm,” said Town Supervisor Susan Carpenter, in her opening report.
She also praised the police department for protecting the town's vulnerable residents, such as senior citizens getting wellness calls, and the Department of Public Works for being able to clear trees, as well as snow from the subsequent nor'easter.
Carpenter, who was among the more than 5,000 customers in town to lose power, praised the Red Cross shelter at Chappaqua Crossing, which helped keep people warm, and thanked Summit/Greenfield and Northern Westchester Hospital for their support of it. The Chappaqua school district was thanked for providing showers at Horace Greeley High School, and the Briarcliff-area Club Fit was thanked for doing likewise. Merchants and local media also got supportive nods.
The supervisor also thanked regional, state and federal elected officials for their help, including County Executive Rob Astorino, County Legislator Mike Kaplowitz, Congresswoman Nita Lowey Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Assemblyman Robert Castelli. Having the support of officials was “really was helpful and they did go to bat for us.”
Carpenter then said “our most heartfelt thanks” goes to the citizens of New Castle who assisted their neighbors.
With the winding down of the recovery, however, the supervisor also acknowledged that the town needs to change its response in the future, and noted that the type of storms being seen in town recently are becoming more frequent.
“But as your elected officials we recognize that the Town of New Castle has to do more and do it better.”
Planned improvement steps from the town include: reviewing the emergency plan, strengthening online communications and providing an offline alternative for those who lose Internet access, expanding the Nixle alert system, reviewing the tree ordinance for pruning, revisting generator regulations, and partnering with local groups that can provide warming space and Internet access in future natural disasters.
Councilman Robin Stout, who said he lost power for 12 days, called for there to be constructive feedback from residents, while Councilman Jason Chapin said the board would keep residents informed when plans are updated. Chapin also hoped that the dialogue is "a community-wide conversation.”
Town officials described an effort that was good faith in nature but hampered by Con Edison not providing enough support on the ground to help. Carpenter explained that DPW cannot clear debris near wires without Con Edison coming to assess whether they are live or not. Con Edison only provided one crew that did cut and clear support for DPW, while Carpenter noted, in a past video status update, that the town asked for more support from the utility for that speciality but that the utility did not do so.
Meanwhile, first responders had to boost their efforts. Police Chief Charles Ferry noted that officers who had vacation plans returned to work, and that there were town personnel working 16-hour shifts. Police also had a geographically distributed presence in town, as fallen trees cut parts of New Castle off from each other. Carpenter noted that the Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps (CVAC) kept a presence on both the eastern and western sides of town for its efforts.
“I think that the EOC [the town's Emergency Operations Center] did work very well," said DPW Commissioner Anthony Vaccaro. "I know that there are a lot of people who were in dire situations and, and that really weighed upon us fully and we did our best with what we had.”