PEPPERELL -- On the morning of Oct. 29, Pepperell town officials gathered for an emergency preparedness meeting in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy. After discussion, the group decided to postpone the Special Town Meeting, scheduled for that evening at 7:30 p.m. The meeting has been rescheduled for Nov. 8 at 7:30 at Nissitissit Middle School. Town Clerk Jeff Sauer and Town Moderator Steve Blackbird met at Town Meeting at Nissitissit on Oct. 29 to officially postpone the gathering until Nov. 8.
"We will convene for the sole purpose of adjourning to a later date," said Sauer on the morning of Oct. 29. "That's the mechanism for handling Town Meeting getting canceled without a court order."
According to Highway Superintendent Peter Shattuck, who said he had watched the weather forecast before attending the emergency management meeting, the station indicated that Pepperell could expect to see the height of the storm between 11 a.m. on Oct. 29 and midnight on Oct. 30.
"I think it puts egg on our face to ask them to come out, yet we had them stay home with their children because it wasn't safe enough to open to schools," he said.
The group, which included, among others, Town Administrator John Moak, Fire Chief Toby Tyler, Police Chief David Scott and Pepperell Emergency Management Agency Director George Ux, agreed with the decision to postpone. Although weather reports have varied from station to station, "We have to err on the side of caution, as always," said Selectman Stephen Themelis.
"All we need is one incident," Moak said.
The Pepperell Emergency Management Agency had not opened the emergency shelter. Ux said he didn't want to jump the gun on getting the shelter up and running before it was certain if it would be necessary.
"If you watch the national news or the national weather service, you'd be building bomb shelters in the corner over here," said Ux. Ux said unlike last year's freak snowstorm, this year the local area had the benefit of warmer temperatures, which resulted in a rain incident as opposed to snow.
Although, said Ux, the group was prepared to open a shelter in the event of power outages. The PEMA shelter is generally always held at Varnum Brook Elementary School; food is available though PACH.
"They might get a can of soup, but that's a can of soup. I think we're fortunate here with what we do have and how we use it. I think we can do pretty good. We have maybe 20 people been trained by the Red Cross for shelter management, so we can count on them," said Ux.
The Highway Department was also prepared in the event of the necessity to close roads; they were fully equipped with a trailer provided by MEMA with barrels, cones, signs and caution tape.
"That's in the highway garage at the ready," said Shattuck.
The town was also in touch with National Grid in the event of power outages. Moak said although the company expressed the opinion that the town is "over-anticipating," they have already contracted 154 tree trucks by the morning of Oct. 29 to clean up the roads if it was deemed necessary.
Shattuck said, as opposed to last year's snowstorm, the company would be sending out electricians working in conjunction with tree removal to get the job done more quickly. Shattuck warned that residents should never take it upon themselves to remove limbs from the road that could be connected to downed wires.
"All wires that are down are considered live. Until the power company has determined that it is dead, it is considered alive. That's the reason why we're not doing it. We don't even allow personnel to cut trees off of wires," said Shattuck. Shattuck said although a week with downed wires may seem like a long time, it's not. "If you're dead, you'll be dead for a long time."