2017-12-06 / Front Page

Harpswell eyes power for its people

Town looking into acquiring generators for use after storms
BY NATHAN STROUT
Times Record Staff


A TREE HANGS on power lines along Bay Road in Bowdoinham, the result of October’s wind storm. Harpswell is looking at acquiring generators to assist that town’s most vulnerable residents the next time there’s a big storm. 
DARCIE MOORE / TIMES RECORD FILE PHOTO A TREE HANGS on power lines along Bay Road in Bowdoinham, the result of October’s wind storm. Harpswell is looking at acquiring generators to assist that town’s most vulnerable residents the next time there’s a big storm. DARCIE MOORE / TIMES RECORD FILE PHOTO HARPSWELL

The town of Harpswell is looking into how it can protect its most vulnerable in the next big storm.

The question has been raised in the wake of the October wind storm that knocked out power for more than half a million Maine households, and left many in the Midcoast without power for a week or more.

“I was struck by the number of people who commented about: Well, almost everybody on my street has generators, except for a couple people,” said Town Planner Mark Eyerman. “And it seemed that in a sort of a very unscientific way, that many of these people who didn’t have access to emergency power during the windstorm … might not have the ability to have an individual generator.”

While many were able to weather the mass outages that lasted for days on end with a personal generator, some lower income households without their own generators were left powerless and helpless for several days. Elderly residents and those with medical devices that rely on electricity were left particularly vulnerable in the storm’s aftermath.

“While a lot of people have their own individual backup generator system, there were accounts … that there were people who rely on electricity for medical support devices that did not have generators and were in sort of a difficult bind,” said Eyerman. “This is the third time in the last 12 or 14 years since the ice storm that there’s been a significant power outage that lasted for not just a day or two, but in some cases a week or 10 days.”

Whether the next storm comes in a few months or in several years, Eyerman wants the town to be prepared. He’s proposed to apply for a federal Community Development Block Grant to buy portable generators that can be delivered to low income households without power, and to install the necessary infrastructure to make them work.

“The Community Development Block Grant is money that comes from the federal government,” said Eyerman, “that’s really intended to address the needs of low- and moderate-income households, with a focus primarily in the area of economic development in the broadest sense.”

Recently, the town received a CDBG to assist Harpswell Aging at Home with its home repair program. HAH provided the volunteer manpower, and the town used CDBG funds to help buy materials.

If the town received the grant, it would purchase several portable generators. It would then identify households in that low- to moderate income range that lack access to emergency backup power, so it would know who is in need of assistance in case of mass outages. There would need to be some installations made, perhaps with HAH volunteers, to homes so that the generators are compatible.

“It just seemed like that might be an area that there was need and that would fit within the umbrella of the CDBG program,” said Eyerman.

There are several steps in the application process, and it’s far from a sure thing whether the town will win a CDBG for this purpose. If they do get the grant, however, Harpswell could be better prepared to protect vulnerable members of the community in the next storm.

nstrout@timesrecord.com

Return to top