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Quincy officials admit error with tide gate; aid may be available

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  June 13, 2012 01:11 PM

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Quincy officials have offered residents financial aid, after admitting that the Blacks Creek Tide Gate should have been closed during the June 3 storm.

Unlike other coastal communities, which suffered only minor flooding during the storm, several Quincy streets were inundated with water after the astronomically high tide and hours of rain.

As many as 30 homes in the Layfayette Street, Putnam Street, and Armory Street area had to have their power cut in order to avoid further problems with the water, which was quickly seeping into basements, engulfing cars, and filling up streets.

Although there was no one cause for the extensive flooding, mayoral spokesperson Christopher Walker said that leaving the tide gate open, a decision by the Department of Public Works, was a definite mistake.

The gate can be opened or closed only at low tide. Once high tide hits, the box that employees use to manually shut the gate isn’t accessible.

“The mayor, after listening to all of the facts that transpired during the storm, he came to the determination that regardless of whatever factors occurred, the tide gates should have been down and they weren’t,” Walker said. “Someone made a mistake. It was a decision made at some juncture not to put the tide gates down for whatever reason…the mayor had looked at everything involved and determined it wasn’t the right decision.”

During a Tuesday night meeting with locals in the area, the mayor suggested that the city would be open to discussing claims in regards to lost property.

The city has a funded claims account with $200,000 in it. Claims might come in under or over that amount, and Walker said the city didn’t have a dollar figure on what to expect.

However, Walker said he suspected that only 20 to 30 homes would qualify for claims.

As a result of the mistake, a new series of protocols is being put in place to ensure a similar situation doesn’t happen again.

Walker refused to speak about who was responsible for the decision made on the night of the storm, and said that nothing will change in terms of who makes the decisions in the future.

The city had also already appropriated $800,000 to improving Blacks Creek capacity and in restoring the tide gate through the $25.4 million Capital Improvement Plan.

According to Walker, the improvements will enable officials to close the gates electronically rather than manually, and will make protocols for those decisions much easier to implement.

Ward 5 Councilor Kirsten Hughes praised the planned improvements, but said the city needs to do more.

“Anything we can do to get those things taken care of is important, but I think they are on the right track of addressing problems and I will be pushing for more proactive response,” Hughes said. “The mayor expressed some of that last night, and hopefully this is a wakeup call to folks that live in the city and know this is a priority.”

Although Hughes said that the city's admitting culpability was a good start that could enable the neighborhood to move forward, several residents suffered losses that will be hard to replace with money.

“Obviously, there are people who expressed losing personal items that cant be replaced, doctoral candidates losing their notes, someone losing a valuable car they passed through their family. You cant replace those things,” she said. “I think that hopefully the city will work with folks on an individual basis and attempt to compensate them as best as possible, but for people who list personal items, no amount of money can compensate that, and that’s a shame.”

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