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From the Desk of
Town Commissioner Chris Staiger

(May, 2010) No time for chit chat this month - lots going on in town courtesy of last month’s fire…  

First of course: Thank you to the volunteers of the Vigilant Hose Company and many neighboring fire departments for saving the town from an even worse disaster.  It was impressive to see four tower trucks – one at each corner of the building – as they brought the blaze under control. One firefighter really drove the situation home for me when he described his initial thoughts while passing the burning building when responding to the station siren. Although not "sprinklered," the installation of required smoke alarms in the building appears to have been key to an early response and no loss of life. Once things WERE under control these first responders were also extremely attentive to numerous residents’ requests to retrieve critical personal belongings and medications or medical equipment. These were neighbors.

Thank you to Pastor Jon and Suse Greenstone for their efforts to comfort displaced persons on the scene and thank you to Father O’Malley for answering a knock at the door and opening St Joseph’s Church facilities so that folks could have initial shelter, the Red Cross could have an ample staging area, and the Fire Marshalls’ had everyone together to begin their interviews and investigation. The owner of the Little Flower shop even opened her building to serve as a shelter for pets. I was chastened to see all of these actions unfold as the morning progressed. Please continue to help where you can - the critical need is monetary support for deposits and fees as victims seek new housing arrangements.

So where do we stand with the situation on the Town Square now? The short answer is that the property owner is in the driver’s seat… As of April 19, permits had been obtained from the Town and the County to begin cleanup work within the structure as well as stabilization work on the western wall that bore the brunt of the fire damage and is the primary reason for the closure of the intersection.  The property owner will be required by the State to have additional inspections completed to confirm the stability of the structure. Inspection, review, and approval by the County and State will then provide the basis for reopening the intersection.  At this point, the property owner controls the time line.

So then what about the state of Lincoln Avenue that has become the main alternate route? First to commuters – please, please use the alternate intersection at Main Street and US15 a half mile down the road. It’s safer and certainly easier on your car.  For locals, the short story is not short. A tangle with the State over permits for the Lincoln Avenue Sewer and Water Rehab Project is now magnified by the impact of the fire. The State authorities, after granting approval to begin the project came to realize that they had not implemented one required permit. This permit requirement was the result of a recent court decision. Yes, it would have been best if ANY of those involved had picked up on this discrepancy. But, nobody did. That’s just the way it is. No point trying to blame anybody. The required information was submitted to the State within three days of the cease and desist order but the State has now taken longer than their ‘mandated minimum’ of 45 days to approve the permit. The State knows the situation – they just need to get moving. The State will not assess any fines and the Engineering company’s insurance is paying for any costs resulting from "the error."  

Final repaving of the road was slated to take place following completion of the project – which would have been done by now according to the original plan. Of course, the road continues to deteriorate not only due to the project’s suspension but due to the increased traffic related to the closure at the square. Unfortunately, it then took a period of time to confirm that patching work wouldn’t be considered a violation of the State’s order to halt the project! By late April, we were in a position to fill the potholes, but then rain prevented the mix from curing and the holes reopened.  My understanding from the Mayor and Town Manager is that by the time of publication some progress should finally be made on the road surface. Regardless, it will not be to the quality of the pre-existing road way - take it easy if you are forced onto the alternate route to collect the mail or visit businesses in the South Seton area.

So, this is the situation as I understand it on all these inter-related issues. I’m proud to be an elected official representing such a strong and supportive community. And I apologize on behalf of the Town Government for all of the inconvenience to our residents and business owners related to the suspension of the infrastructure improvement project and the complications of the fire on the Town Square.  The only thing I can ask is for another measure of patience while the situations resolve.

Thank you, Chris Staiger

Read other articles by Chris Staiger