Residents Feel Abandoned By Town Officials

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, May 26, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Patrick Pine, of Boy Scout Troop 176 in Hampton, helps load a dumpster last weekend with debris from flood-damaged homes at Taylor River Estates in Hampton.
[Photo by Jamie Cohen]

HAMPTON -- Selectman Rick Griffin has contacted the governor’s office, hoping someone from the state will come to the board’s next meeting to address the concerns of Taylor River Estates residents.

Residents of Taylor River Estates blasted town officials during this week’s selectmen’s meeting, stating they felt abandoned by the town and state during last week’s floods.

Taylor River Estates was one of the hardest hit areas during four days of torrential downpours, where roughly 10 homes on the street were damaged by flood waters from the river.

Residents said they called local officials because they were concerned about the dam being blocked at Taylor River. According to the residents who spoke at the selectmen’s meeting, they were referred to call someone from the state, but no number was given.

The residents said when they finally got hold of someone from the state, after getting the number from the state police barracks in Epping, state officials did nothing until it was too late and water from the river closed down part of Interstate 95.

Griffin said he wants to know why the state took so long to address the dam issue and why the town didn’t have an emergency management office opened where residents could call to get information.

Fire Chief Hank Lipe told selectmen Monday night an emergency office wasn’t opened because he needed to be in the field because of a staff shortage rather than answering phone calls.

"Personally, I think the emergency system failed in this town," said Selectmen Chairman Ginny Bridle-Russell said. "In an emergency there should be a place for residents to call to get information. For these residents to call two of three officials and not get a number to call was wrong."

Bridle-Russell said the board directed Town Manager James Barrington to have each department head write a synopsis of what happened during last week’s floods.

"I want them to tell me what they found were their strengths and their weakness," said Bridle-Russell, who added that what happened last week is proof the plan is flawed.

After listening to the residents Monday night, Selectmen Ben Moore said he believes "the ball was dropped in communication between the residents, the town and the state."

"If the state sent someone to look at the situation before there was any major property damage as the residents stated, then it was quite possibly that they didn’t access the situation correctly," he said.

Moore said he’s looking forward to the board’s next meeting and wants to see if the state can re-engineer the dam to assure that something like this does not happen again.

"If it can’t be done by engineering then this area needs to be a priority whenever there is heavy rainfall," Moore said.

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