On Tuesday, May 15, our town experienced a catastrophic weather event. Although we are awaiting an official determination from the National Weather Service, we can confirm a macroburst with straight line wind speeds of up to 120 mph. The result was widespread, catastrophic and heartbreaking. On behalf of the Town, I offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Lauren Svendsen and our support to those who have lost their homes. This storm destroyed the electric transmission infrastructure in New Fairfield, downing 419 poles, 129 transformers and 44 miles of wire.
On Wednesday, May 16, I filed a Declaration of State of Emergency in New Fairfield and opened our Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Governor Malloy also announced that he signed a Declaration of Civil Preparedness Emergency to assist the state and its municipalities with response and recovery efforts. In conjunction with the OEM Director and Superintendent of Schools we implemented a response plan to open the shelter at the High School, clear the main routes in and out of town, ensure EMS and Fire access to all residents, restore power and reopen schools.
Although the initial response from Eversource was slow, crews were in town immediately following the storm to begin clearing trees and opening routes 37 and 39 to provide emergency access to and from New Fairfield. Disappointed with the progress of the response, I reached out to the Governor’s Office, and spoke with Congresswoman Esty on Wednesday, to ensure that New Fairfield had access to all available resources to keep residents safe, and to restore electricity. On Thursday, we were joined in our EOC by members of the Eversource Senior Management Team who coordinated up to 154 crews per day in the restoration effort. They were assisted by the National Guard and tree crews from the towns of Westport and Fairfield. Power was restored to the center of Town on Friday, and by Tuesday evening, power had been restored to 99% of our residents.
With the help of Board of Education staff and Dr. Alicia Roy, we moved generators to the High School and opened the shelter Wednesday afternoon. With many thanks to Aramark, we served dinner on Wednesday evening and 3 hot meals per day until Tuesday, May 22. With donations from several local businesses, we were able to supply as much potable water as needed to our residents throughout the week.
I would also like to acknowledge and thank all of the Community members who rallied to clear their roads and help their neighbors. Thank you to everyone who provided shelter and comfort to strangers during the storm. In time of adversity our town showed its true colors, and I am grateful and privileged to serve as your First Selectman.
What are our next steps? The Governor directed emergency management officials to begin the initial evaluation process to determine whether the federal thresholds to request a Major Disaster Declaration from President Trump can be met, which could permit the state and its eligible municipalities to receive federal aid that can offset some of the costs of debris removal and restoration.
New Fairfield Town employees completed a preliminary damage assessment for submission to the State last week. We must document damage to be eligible for FEMA assistance; and President Trump must sign a Federal Disaster Declaration for FEMA assistance to become available to the Town and residents. I must emphasize that FEMA reimbursement is not guaranteed at this time, however, we should know more this week. Please continue to submit pictures of damage and written estimates for restoration work to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your house is uninhabitable, please contact our Building Official, Eric Kist at email@example.com
The Town will be accepting brush related to storm clean up at the Drop Off Center at no charge until further notice. Last Thursday, the Board of Finance recommended an appropriation of $750,000 from the General Fund to cover the costs of storm recovery pending anticipated reimbursement from FEMA. The Board of Selectmen has warned a Town Meeting for Thursday, May 31 for voters to approve the transfer of funds. Once those funds become available, brush removal can begin. Work is anticipated to start the week of June 4. We will work with our contractor this week to determine what types of debris will be picked up and when crews will be in each area of town. As soon as that information becomes available, I will publish the schedule and details on this page and on the town website, and I will communicate via Alert Now. If you haven’t signed up for Alert Now messages, you may submit your information to CFennessey@newfairfield.org. Please include your name, address, landline number and cell phone number, and we will add you to the system immediately.
When I have details, I will send an Alert Now, post on Facebook, publish in the Town Tribune and post at Town Hall.
– Pat Del Monaco, New Fairfield First Selectman