April 07, 2020

Fairfield> Grateful town manager praises fortitude of volunteers

FAIRFIELD–Lack of sleep and hard work were beginning to take a toll on Town Manager Terry York on Thursday, Jan. 15.

Her own home was still without electricity; the pipes in her kitchen and laundry room had burst; she was living in a motel room with her husband and two dogs. To make matters worse, she was sporting one heck of a shiner from falling face down on the ice.

As she sat behind her desk at the Fairfield Town Office, with a line of people waiting to get emergency food assistance, York was moved to tears as she praised the volunteers who had kept Fairfield running for the past eight days.

“Excuse me, I get emotional when I think of it,” York apologized, as she listed the countless ways the Fairfield police, fire and public works departments, churches and neighbors had helped each other through the storm.

“We’re exhausted, and we’ve heard a lot of sad cases come through here today,” said York, “but at the same time, I can’t say enough about the town workers. There was none of ‘this isn’t my job’ stuff.”

York credited community cooperation with helping to have every road in Fairfield passable by Sunday evening, Jan. 11.

“The public works crews were getting trees out of the road. The firefighters, in their own vehicles, were clearing brush. Even the Explorers, the junior firefighters, chopped the ice off the bridges. The cooperation has been phenomenal and everyone has worked tirelessly,” said the town manager.

The town’s community center became command central, with York cooking spaghetti for town workers and even sleeping at the center the first night of the storm. All the residents of Island Apartments on an island in the Kennebec River were evacuated, said York.

As it became apparent that more and more residents needed a place to go for warmth and food, they were directed to the Good Will Hinckley School on Route 201. The school, however, also lost power and the evacuees were bused to the Colby College field house in Fairfield. Nearly all have returned home, said York.

As of Thursday afternoon, Jan. 15, all but a few pockets of Fairfield, including York’s neighborhood, had power back on. Schools remained closed and would not reopen until Tuesday, Jan. 20. Downtown, with stores open and shoppers bustling in and out, it appeared to be business as usual.

York said a program to check on elderly residents, the Senior Watch Program, was a lifesaver during the storm and would continue to be a priority as another snowstorm was expected. The program, begun by Fairfield police Officer Kelly Hooper, is a voluntary sign-up with the police. By participating, elderly residents could be assured that a police officer would check on them periodically, sit and visit, and take note of any special needs.

York said the program was “invaluable” during the ice storm.

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