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Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, September 8, 2010

With new flooding, BKW delays start of school

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — After the damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene, and the additional rainfall on Wednesday, Berne-Knox-Westerlo has cancelled its first day of school, originally scheduled for Thursday.

The district now plans to open school on Friday, Superintendent Paul Dorward wrote in an e-mail to district residents, and kindergarten and pre-kindergarten orientation, which had also been scheduled for Thursday, has been rescheduled to Friday as well.

Berne Highway Superintendent Kenneth Weaver said Wednesday night that he is not comfortable with school buses traveling his roads.

“Most of the roads’ shoulders have been eroded, and there are deep crevasses along the edges of the roads, and the fear is that, if a heavier vehicle like a bus has to pass another vehicle in these spots, it’ll give way and collapse,” Weaver told The Enterprise. “So, until the roads are safe enough for a heavier vehicle, that’s it.”

He said that most roads have been brought up to a condition where they can be traveled, and reiterated his concern with drivers’ attempting to pass each other.

The district had sent out a release earlier in the week, saying school would open Sept. 8 as scheduled, and quoting Dorward: “The buildings and grounds were not impacted by the storm, and the construction project didn’t experience any storm-related delays.” The release said some bus routes would be changed, but “everything is on track.”

Yesterday’s heavy rains on saturated ground changed that.

“I talked to the school and their coordinators, and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s unsafe for a busload of children,” Weaver said. “Some of these places, I don’t even like to see gas trucks and oil trucks, because the roads are not good enough to support that weight.”

Wednesday’s rainfall, he went on, put a “slowdown” on repairs being made in the aftermath of Irene.

“Not only are we trying to repair things, but we’re trying to save the work we’ve done,” Weaver said Wednesday. “Almost every road in town has at least one spot that needs to be addressed.”

He specifically referred to Cole Hill Road as “very bad,” and said that Bradt Hollow Road and Cass Hill Road have “big ruts” in their shoulders.

Also, water on Wednesday evening had risen to the top of the road near the bridge on Rock Road.

“But, these ruts come second; first, you have to get the people,” Weaver said. “We did lose roads to the point where people would have been stranded; they would have been inaccessible. But, we’ve opened those roads up to the point where vehicles can get in. If there are people that can’t be gotten to, that is priority one, but we’ve solved that and we’re in pretty good shape that way.”

He was unable to provide an estimate as to when the roads will be able to safely handle school buses.

“As far as the town roads, we’re not horrible,” Weaver concluded. “I have some spots yet that I have to correct, which I’m hoping we can do tomorrow. I honestly don’t know how long it’s going to take to recoup from this — hopefully, by the end of the week. Let’s all hope.”

Notice for

flood victims

BKW has been attempting to to reach residents in need of help after Tropical Storm Irene.

Through its online school news notification system, Berne-Knox-Westerlo states, “Hurricane Irene has had a devastating effect on some community members. If you or someone you know is in need of help or cannot get items they need — such as water, food, oxygen, medicine, supplies, etc. — because of storm damage or road closures, please call the Albany County Sheriff’s Department Communications Center at 765-2351 and choose the dispatch option.”

The sheriff’s department, the notification says, has special vehicles that allow deputies to navigate dangerous roads to get needed supplies to residents. “Please do not try to cross any barricaded roads yourself,” it stresses.

National Grid is distributing dry ice to area customers without power to keep food from spoiling. Dry ice can be picked up daily from 8 a.m. until dusk at Slingerlands Fire Department at 1520 New Scotland Road in Slingerlands until all power has been restored to all residents.

Assistance, including grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster, is also available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (See related story.)

Residents and business owners who sustained losses due to Tropical Storm Irene may apply for assistance by registering online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.

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