Board of Health to address Spruces condemnation notices

The Williamstown Board of Health will hold meetings this week to hear appeals from residents of The Spruces mobile home park who feel that their homes were incorrectly condemned after floodwaters from tropical storm Irene caused severe damage to the park. The town health inspector, Jeffrey Kennedy, condemned 152 houses in the complex. However, as of Monday, 70 homes have had their condemnation status revoked, and 11 have already been repaired and are now habitable again. Town officials expect more homes to pass inspection in the coming days as repairs are made.

The health inspector’s office reported that electricity is now available to 134 units; however, only 47 of those units have power on. Berkshire Gas has resumed service to some homes with consistent electrical service. Although the number of occupied units has more than doubled over the past week, 37 homes remain classified as “unsafe.” These units have been deemed too dangerous to enter without an escort from the building inspector’s office. One home remains “off limits.” Furthermore, 176 homes remain classified as “restricted use,” and may be deemed habitable pending electrical and gas inspections and structural inspections by town engineers and the building inspector.

Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for Public Affairs, described the situation at The Spruces as “Williamstown’s greatest humanitarian disaster.” The College has made efforts in recent weeks to shelter some of those who lost their homes and provide food and in-kind services to the nearly 250 displaced persons at The Spruces.

While many students, faculty and staff have gotten involved in the recovery process, the lack of visible damage to the community may have stymied the campus response. “The victims are scattered, and when you drive past The Spruces, it doesn’t look that different,” Kolesar said. “It’s important that people remember what a blow this is to our community.”

In the coming weeks, the College and the local interfaith group will continue to supplement official recovery activities by Federal Emergency Management Agency and local authorities. According to Kolesar, a new community-based group, which will include College administrators and town residents, has also formed to plan the community’s medium to long-term disaster response.