Merrimack and the Generator

In 2003 the town of Merrimack had a warrant article to buy a generator for between $80,000 and $90,000.  This was voted on in a warrant article and the argument that sold is was that this generator would allow Merrimack to use our Middle School as an emergency shelter should it be needed.

Here is the quote about it from the 2003 Merrimack voters guide:

Article 15 Emergency Shelter Generator

Mastricola Middle School has been designated an emergency shelter for residents who must leave their homes due to flooding, severe weather conditions, or other such emergencies. This article provides an appropriation to purchase and install a generator at that location to provide electricity to the emergency shelter if normal electrical service is interrupted.

We heard from many elected officials at that time that the town had to think about preparedness should anything ever happen in the future.  Plan ahead.  Be proactive in stead of reactive.  Etc etc etc...

Along comes the ice storms of 2008 leaving much of the state and the majority of the town of Merrimack without power.  Reports from the Saturday after the storm was that only 5% of Merrimack actually had power and at that point there was no idea when it would be restored.  The only message PSNH gave out was that we should be prepared for several days without power in an automated message they had playing on their phone system.

Signs went up through Merrimack with a phone number to call should anyone need emergency shelter.  When people called, expecting to be directed to our middle school that we spend a lot of money on for "preparedness", they were told to go to either Manchester or Nashua.

Why after spending nearly $100k for a generator were we now told we wouldn't even be using our own shelter and instead had to head off to one of the neighboring towns?  It didn't take long before the questions began popping up on the Merrimack Forum.

The only explanation I've seen so far is from town Councilor Tom Mahon who posted the following on the forum:

As for the lack of a shelter in Merrimack. The Town relies on the Red Cross to 'man' the shelters. They do not have enough volunteers to man a shelter in every community.

In other words, thanks for spending all that money folks but unless your town is the only one with the problem we just don't have the people to help you out!

I'm sure if we looked closer at each and every town in the state we'd find countless other examples of tax money we were convinced to support for planing ahead that sure sounded like good ideas at the time that were actually things we couldn't use.  Then we all sit back when we get our tax bill wondering why a third to half our pay is taken from us year after year.  I post this as something to think about as we begin hearing calls for more spending to be prepared next time a storm like this hits us.