April 09, 2020

State Government> Crisis has State House working around the clock

AUGUSTA — Gov. Angus King dropped into an armchair in his office, looking exhausted, his legs in jeans and rubber boots stretched out in front of him, after spending Thursday night and Friday morning touring shelters and shadowing utility repair crews.

Benjamin, his 7-year-old son, who went along with him, was not exhausted.

As the governor described the damage the ice storm has done so far and talked about the challenges ahead, Benjamin raced into the Cabinet room to play, then bolted back into the governor’s office and climbed around the desk and shelf filled with Maine things. “Remember I couldn’t pick up this bat before?” he asked, swinging a Sea Dogs bat around his head. “Be careful with it,” King said, not even having to turn around to know what he was doing.

Last night, the governor went to Dunkin’ Donuts and bought every doughnut they had. “They guy behind me said, `Can I just have one cruller?”‘ King said, laughing. So with all the doughnuts minus one cruller, he went to shelters set up in central Maine. In Waterville there were well over 100 people spending the night there. “It’s bad out there,” he said, summing up with four words the hundreds of thousands of people without lights or heat, with trees down, roads closed, stores dark.

When he talked to the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Friday morning, he said, “We had a very cordial conversation, but I basically said, `Get your checkbook out.”‘

He and Benjamin couldn’t get home to Brunswick after 11 p.m., so they spent Thursday night in the Blaine House. Then it was up at 4:30 a.m. to follow a Central Maine Power Co. crew as they went to repair lines that were down, he said. An aide handed King a note. “[U.S. Rep.] Tom Allen called, asking how he can help,” he said, waving the note. U.S. Rep. John Baldacci had called as well.

Behind him, Benjamin was trying on hats. A crown slipped over his forehead, over his eyes, and he wandered around a bit, unable to see but smiling. “The CMP crew was out cutting trees with hydraulic saws and — what did they call it, Benjamin?” King asked over his shoulder.

“Bird dogs,” his son said.

“Bird dogs — that’s CMP employees out in pickups,” finding trouble spots to call in, King said.

King planned to spend most of Friday afternoon at the State House where the people working in the Maine Emergency Management Agency are, and where he can be reached easily. “With all the other calls there’s Mary, too,” he said of his wife, Mary Herman; they don’t have power at home, either.

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