WILLIAMSTOWN -- Almost two months after Tropical Storm Irene flooded The Spruces Mobile Home Park, several residents of the park who are trying to rebuild face a new culprit -- winter.
Building Commissioner Michael J. Card said Tuesday there is concern that homes without heat and electricity will start experiencing freezing pipes, which could potentially lead to additional water damage.
"While we're not in the dead of winter yet, this is something that has crossed our minds," he said.
If people don't have heat in their homes -- and depending on where repair work on them stands -- they should consider turning off their water service and draining their water systems so as to minimize damage, he said.
With the cold weather coming, Inspection Services is moving as quickly as it can and will try to do whatever it can to respond to applications and calls from Spruces residents so they know where they stand, Card said.
"A lot of it is in the hands of the residents. They're still in control of their own destinies for now," he said.
So far, 41 homes have been approved for occupancy, and there are potentially 15 or 16 more seeking approval, Card said. Of those potential approvals, one includes flood-proofing the structure by raising it, he said. In addition, demolition permits have been issued for 10 houses.
Card said an engineering firm has stepped forward and is currently designing a plan for residents who don't have to flood-proof their homes, but who need to replace damaged piers holding them up, he said.
"It's like a log jam right now, but once the design is ready, the log jam will start to break up," Card said.
In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, several residents of The Spruces have been critical of the town's response to getting people back into their homes. They have questioned the amount of time it has taken to get homes approved for occupancy as well as the permitting process.
"We are doing the best we can," Card said. "We're really trying to help people get back into their homes."
The whole experience has been a learning process for his department, he said. He continues to talk to residents, contractors and engineers involved in the rebuilding, trying to explain what is happening and what needs to happen.
"We had a delay with getting an engineer in, and we still have a delay with the design for the piers. I'm not sure how much faster we could do it," Card said.
He said the original certificates of occupancy for The Spruces' 225 homes were voided by the flood, and the town can't issue certificates of occupancy until all the work that needs to be done has been done.
"It's a safety issue," he said. "You can't take the structural system lightly."
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