On Friday, June 1, 2012, fourth-grade Girl Scouts from Troop 40036 of Williamstown and Lanesborough served a community supper for former and current residents of the Spruces in the Sts. Patrick and Raphael Parish Center in Williamstown.

Click HERE to read the article by Stephen Dravis on iBerkshires.com.


From the North Adams Transcript

Wednesday May 23, 2012

Girls in Girl Scout Daisy Troop 11341, of Williamstown, plant flowers at The Spruces in Williamstown on Monday afternoon as part of a service project badge. From left, Erika Bolton, 7, Lucy Igoe, 7, and Jullie Gill. The flowers were provided by the troop, and the soil was donated by Countryside Landscaping. (Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript)

Morgan Management Files Suit Against Williamstown

Morgan Management is suing the town in order to determine exactly what its responsibilities are as the owner of The Spruces. The case has a lot of different angles to it, so below is quoted at length from an article published on Williamstown.com:

There has been much speculation on the park’s future since it was washed out by Hurricane Irene. The company filed suit in response to multiple residents going to housing court to force the company to restore power to the homes after the company said the electrical infrastructure was too damaged to immediately repair.

“If these orders go through they will define who will stay and who will go,” Town Manager Peter Fohlin told the Selectmen on Monday.

The company wants to know if residents who haven’t returned are abandoning their property. The company is also asking residents to take responsibility for removing abandoned trailers within that 30-day time period. At the same time, the company would halt work on the infrastructure and create a plan that could include moving the trailers into a smaller space. Much of the newer, western section of the park was the most heavily damaged.

Morgan Management also is asking the town to force out eight residents who may be living in condemned homes. While some of the homes Morgan Management listed in court documents have since been approved for occupancy, Fohlin said he has an updated list of residents who are allegedly living in their homes illegally.

“The only item that is directed to the town is the one asking us to remove residents from condemned homes,” Fohlin said. “We’re a little between a rock and a hard spot now that Morgan is taking us to court.”

Fohlin also expressed concern with the company’s request that would allow them to “reorder, relocate and consolidate” the park because it would “bypass” state building codes. The homes are not currently conforming to state building codes because they are in a flood plain. A trailer that is moved or constructed now must fit in with the codes that would require the homes to be above floodwaters — as high as 12 feet in the air in some parts of the park. The order would rid the residents and the company of that responsibility.

Morgan Management is also asking for the state for a reprieve from pressures while the future of the park is being planned and another order would require the residents to remove “non-ordinary” trash that washed up in the storm. However, Fohlin said the town and the Spruce’s Tenants Association have already removed that trash.

Members of the Board of Selectmen voiced concern over contacting the residents and over who will have to pay for the homes to be moved. Fohlin said the town’s attorney does not think Morgan’s request of giving residents 30 days to decide their intentions will be ordered and that the lawsuit does not specify who would pay for the relocation of the homes.

Board members were also concerned that the residents will not be represented in court. While the tenants could hire an attorney and file a motion to intervene, Fohlin reminded the board members that the Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office will be representing the residents.

Owners of the Spruces Sue State and Williamstown Officials

This iBerkshires article from this morning explains that Morgan Management, which owns the Spruces has “filed a lawsuit to force local and state officials to discuss utility problems in the park.”

From the article:

“People shouldn’t get too alarmed when I say they filed a suit. They’re asking the court to rationalize what’s happening on the west end of the park and Morgan’s only alternative is to get in front of a judge to get rationalize it,” Town Manager Peter Fohlin told the Board of Selectmen on Monday night. “Their major concern is that park tenants were going to the Housing Court one here, one there, in sort of a helter skelter fashion and Morgan Management is asking the court to bring all of those questions together.”

VOAD’s, FEMA, and HG

One of the first things we’ve learned while working with FEMA is that you need to learn your acronyms. VOAD is one that keeps coming up in the alphabet soup of disaster relief–it stands for Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters. Higher Ground is a VOAD.

This video from the FEMA media library features the efforts of numerous VOAD’s who came together after the destruction of Hurricane Irene in New Jersey. That the relief efforts have been coordinated by individuals and organizations that come from so many different faiths, backgrounds, and industries is something NJ and Western MA have in common. “The agencies can’t do it alone, the government can’t do it alone, so we have to work together,” says one woman.

Watch the whole video (5 minutes) on the FEMA website.

Press Release From FEMA: Long Term Recovery Groups Continue The Recovery Process

The following is the full press release which FEMA released today:

WESTFIELD, Mass. – Many volunteer agencies will continue to help those affected by the June 1 tornadoes and Tropical Storm Irene from August 27 to 29 in Massachusetts long after state and federal government disaster agencies have departed.

“Just because the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s registration period for assistance has ended doesn’t mean everything is back to normal,” said State Coordinating Officer Kurt Schwartz, Director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). “Many of these volunteer agencies that were the first on the scene with a helping hand will continue to help storm victims as long as the need exists.”

Federal and state officials want to assure those still in need of recovery assistance that some form of help will continue to be available.

“As federal and state recovery efforts wind down, it’s important for residents in the western part of the Commonwealth to realize they are not being abandoned,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Mark H. Landry. “Affected residents in the four declared counties may still call FEMA’s Helpline for answers to their questions about disaster assistance, or to locate contact information for the appropriate volunteer agencies. Help continues to be available by phone and internet even though the registration deadline has passed.”

The number is 1-800-621-FEMA (3362); for individuals with speech and hearing disabilities, the TTY number is 1-800-462-7585. For Internet help, go to www.disasterassistance.gov.

“Immediately after each of these two disasters struck, volunteers from across the country and state as well as those in local communities were helping residents and communities in a variety of ways,” said Schwartz. “Though not as visible today, these efforts still continue and will do so for some time to come.” 

Most of the assisting agencies are members of Massachusetts Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (MAVOAD), a cooperative organization of volunteer relief efforts that stresses communication and collaboration. MAVOAD includes more than 30 volunteer agencies providing a wide array of disaster relief services.


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WilliNet’s Q&A with FEMA

If you missed WilliNet’s Q&A with FEMA, you can still watch it on WilliNet’s website here.

The panel features Robin Lenz, Coordinator of Higher Ground; Mary Myshrall, the FEMA Housing Group Supervisor; and Cristian Rodriquez, FEMA Deputy Housing Group Supervisor. The trio fields questions from callers.

Although the video lists the deadline for FEMA applications as Nov. 2, remember that FEMA is still available to assist. If you have any problems or questions, visit their website or call 800-621-FEMA.