Trinity-Conception-Placentia municipal leaders relfect on power outage

Nicholas Mercer
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It has been a little over a week since the province plummeted into darkness on Jan. 4 after a massive power outage.

Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood addresses council on Nov. 12.

And, it is still fresh on the minds of many constituents.

The denizens of the Trinity-Conception-Placentia region were left scrambling as the unexpected withdrawal of power came during the height of a powerful winter storm.

This coupled with extreme subzero temperatures to provide a less-than-ideal situation for residents.

While information was slowly trickling in through news outlets over social media as to the cause of the event, more immediate concerns needed to be taken care of. The cause would later be attributed to a fire at the Newfoundland and Labrador substation at Sunnyside.

More often than not, the man responsible for delivering those solutions and dealing with concerns, whether he has the answers or not, is the mayor.

For three mayors in the region, like many around the area, the first phone call came minutes after the power grid went down.

Placentia Mayor Wayne Power was clearing his driveway when the first phone call came.

“It was constant, hearing from staff and hearing from residents, and trying to keep everyone reassured and deal with issues as they arose,” he said.

Communication is the key for these mayors.

They are in constant contact with staff members, emergency services and provincial figures.

Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood was in frequent communication with chief administrative officer Nigel Black through text message and other members of the staff throughout the day. Other staff members like Ron Delaney and Ian Flynn were also giving information as it became available.

“I made the point to return every phone call,” he said. “You’re a point of contact. A lot of people don’t know who the CAO is or they don’t know how to get in contact with him. They should know who the mayor is. I’m a liaison for council.”

That’s where a mayor may be most important — as a communicator.

From speaking with residents to juggling media requests, the mayor is the most visible person in the community, especially in a time of crisis.

The mayor is responsible for fielding questions of concerned citizens and providing answers where there may not be any.

“I was working with staff and responding to resident concerns,” said Power.


Helping residents

While the Avalon North Wolverines Search and Rescue were busy setting up a warming station at its building in Bay Roberts , Wood was in the process of arranging a similar venue at the town’s fire hall.

In Bay de Verde, Mayor Gerard Murphy was making sure everything was all set at the town hall should residents needed to get warm or were looking for a cup of tea.

“Throughout the delay, we had a warming centre at the town hall,” he said.

However, not many of the town’s 398 (2011 census) residents made use of the service provided by Bay de Verde.

“Most people preferred to stay in their home,” said Murphy. “In Bay de Verde, most people had a source of heat.”

But, that did not mean officials and volunteers were not vigilante.

Murphy still answered any time his phone rang, while the Bay de Verde Volunteer Fire Department was mobilized and made sure to check in on seniors regularly.

“Things went very smoothly,” said Murphy. “The roads were cleared and I think people coped well.”


Volunteers a big help

Volunteers play an important role in a crisis such as the one town’s found themselves in last week.

“When you have a situation like that, volunteers are very crucial,” said Power. “Especially when it comes to activating your warming centre.”

Placentia originally set up its warming centre in the Star of the Sea Hall before moving to the Arts Centre later in the evening.

“When we opened our comfort station, the Star of the Sea Association members were there ready and willing to do whatever,” said Power. “We also had other service organizations calling and offering help.”

All three communities felt they fared well through the day-long outage.

“We had a good response,” said Power. “We saw a couple of places for improvement.”

Wood echoed sentiments similar to the Placentia mayor.

“We’ve already met and reviewed, and maybe we would store some food stuffs,” he said. “These are going to become more important.”

Organizations: Avalon North Wolverines Search, Bay de Verde Volunteer Fire Department, Sea Association

Geographic location: Placentia, Bay Roberts, Newfoundland and Labrador Bay de Verde

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