Council Discusses Cambridge’s Disaster Response

Disaster was the theme of Monday night’s City Council meeting, as councillors reviewed Cambridge’s blizzard response and recalled last fall’s city-wide blackout.

The Council stressed the need for Cantabrigians to be patient this week, as the city embarks on the blizzard cleanup process. Hoping to ease the burden on Cantabrigians, the Council also adopted an order asking City Manager Robert W. Healy to waive parking fees at the First Street Garage this week.

Both Councillor Marjorie C. Decker and Councillor Craig A. Kelley said that constituents had contacted them during the blizzard to report streets that the Department of Public Works had not plowed. The two councillors also commended city employees for their diligence during the storm.

“Our city employees probably hear more of the complaints that come through rather than the thanks that they deserve,” Decker said.

Mayor Henrietta J. Davis also praised the Department of Public Works for its storm response. Acknowledging that the response might have seemed slow to some Cantabrigians, she added, “The crews do have to sleep.”

Decker also expressed her appreciation for Cambridge residents’ patience and cooperation during the storm.

“I just would like to thank our residents for doing the backbreaking work of clearing their sidewalks,” she said.

The Council also turned its attention to last November’s city-wide blackout as part of a larger conversation about concerns with NSTAR Electric and Gas, the city’s electricity provider. Councillors said that several Cambridge businesses had found the utility company unable to meet their ampage needs.

“We ought to be concerned about the adequacy of the infrastructure that NSTAR has,” said Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves ’72. Reeves cited the “bedlam” that ensued in Central Square during the Nov. 29 blackout as evidence of the immediacy of the problem.

Kelley deemed it “ironic” that the Council was approving large-scale development plans in Cambridge while problems with NSTAR persisted.

“We ought to know more about NSTAR’s capacity before encouraging further building,” he said.

The Council ultimately adopted an order requesting that the City Manager meet with NSTAR officials. The order, sponsored by Reeves and Councillor Leland Cheung, called for a “firm timeline for maintenance and replacement plans.”

—Staff writer Sonali Y. Salgado can be reached at ssalgado@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @SonaliSalgado16.

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