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Power outage in Windsor knocks out Town Hall's new heating system and freezes pipes

Windsor Town Hall

Windsor's Town Hall lost heat and pipes froze after a tree knocked down power lines on Route 9 on Friday evening. The Town Hall is expected to remain closed until Friday.

WINDSOR — A downed tree that took out power lines on Route 9 near the boundary with Dalton in Friday’s bludgeoning cold wreaked collateral damage on Town Hall: frozen pipes and one cracked new heating pump.

While Town Hall is closed, possibly until Friday, Town Offices are functioning across the street.

Two new heat pumps were installed at Town Hall before Thanksgiving, but a new propane furnace and backup generator, which can function in colder weather, have not yet been installed.

“So, rolling the dice, and we lost,” Town Administrator Madeline Scully said on Tuesday. “Our air source heat pumps failed. When the power came back on, they didn’t reset because it was well below the 15 below (zero temperature) that they’re rated for.”

Scully said Windsor Fire Chief James Hyatt checked on the town’s buildings Saturday and noticed Town Hall’s pipes were frozen and the heat was off. To prevent water damage, he turned off the water and the pump. Plumbing repairs continued Tuesday, and a new pump was expected Wednesday.

The town’s insurance coverage will pay for the emergency repairs.

For some residents of Windsor, mail delivery is more predictable than the weather. They know it isn’t coming. The U.S. Postal Service says its vans can’t navigate dirt roads where snow and ice lingers in winter. Other delivery services manage to get through, residents say. Town officials have been looking for answers for more than a year.

Windsor is in the midst of retrofitting its heating system at Town Hall, partly so the building can operate as a shelter and a cooling center.

The heat pumps cost the town $37,500, after a $40,250 rebate through the Mass Save Program. A Green Communities Division incentive grant from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources paid for $23,041 of the installation. Another $14,209 in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act also went toward it. The propane furnace and generator, at a cost of about $56,000, aren’t expected until March.

Scully took a reflective view on the incident.

“It showed us some of our deficiencies,” she said. “It showed us where we were strong in disaster management.”

Scully said that she will meet on Wednesday with the town’s emergency manager, fire chief, police chief and highway superintendent to go over the response to the Friday incident, and that the group also will discuss final plans for the shelter. She said she expects the shelter to be ready to open within the next couple of months.

The Town Hall has gotten new wiring, insulated curtains, an on-demand water heater, and full insulation through a Green Communities incentive grant, American Rescue Plan Act and town funds.

Despite the damage, the Friday night power outage produced something that seems contradictory: a bright spot. The town didn’t lose internet service.

“It went down,” Scully said, “the generator kicked in and came right back up, and it was totally seamless. So that was a good thrill for us.” She added: “Everybody gives Facebook such a bum rap, but it was such an immediate communication tool for us in Windsor.”

Jane Kaufman is Community Voices Editor at The Berkshire Eagle. She can be reached at jkaufman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6125.

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