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Waltham museum director vows to reopen

Posted by Leslie Anderson  March 16, 2010 08:18 AM

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The Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation was still flooded with about six inches of water this afternoon, and is closed indefinitely. But damage to the museum's historic contents was minimal, since staffers and volunteers moved everything they could -- including a 1908 Orient automobile, a 1910 motorcycle, and original artwork and blueprints -- to dry ground yesterday as water began rising.

They couldn't move the museum's heavy machinery on display, including steam engines and a paper bag machine, said Dan Yaeger, the museum's executive director. But although the machines will have to be restored carefully, Yeager said he didn't expect they would be permanently damaged.

"Yesterday, it was unreal, walking through the museum in a pair of waders," he said, "Just on Friday, we were walking around giving tours. It is kind of a shock."

The water has not receded, and about six inches remains on the first floor of the two-floor museum, Yaeger said. Once the water drains, museum officials will assess the damage and talk with their insurers and specialists to guide them as they clean the machines. The carpets, and potentially the interior walls, are ruined and will need to be replaced, but the exterior walls are made of brick and seem to be undamaged, Yaeger said.

Private events scheduled to take place at the museum this weekend had to be canceled. But once the water recedes, the museum will be looking again to its volunteers to help ready the museum for its reopening.

"We're fully planning on being back and being back as soon as we can," Yaeger said. The building, in the mill complex, is "not a very easy place to destroy. But it does give you a sense of the power of nature, that's for sure."

Housed in the historic 1814 Boston Manufacturing Company textile mill, the buidling is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to its website.

Monday night, Councilor at Large Sarafina “Sally” Collura had said she worried that the museum, which is located on low ground near the Charles River, may not re-open.

“This may be the thing that closes the museum,” she said Monday night at a city council meeting. “I’m not really sure they can remain open after the damage that was done today. It’s going to cost them a lot, and it might cost them the museum.”

Workers Tuesday were using machines to move rock along the sides of the Francis Cabot Lowell Mill, which sits along the Charles River near the museum. According to a Department of Conservation and Recreation representative, the rocks were to aid in diverting water from the mill and museum area.

Elsewhere in Waltham, Linden Street in Waltham remained closed today. Families that were evacuated from their homes to hotels were told they would spend at least one more day before they could return, according to McCarthy.

At their regular meeting Monday night, Waltham City Councilors pledged to apply for state and federal aid to help flooding victims and said steps must be taken to prevent such flooding from happening again.

“We continue to have these problems of flooding,” said Ward 2 Councilor Ed Tarallo. “The water that comes from North Waltham ends up on Linden Street, whether we want to believe it or whether we don’t.”

Tarallo said he first proposed measures in 2001 to help reduce the flow of water into Waltham neighborhoods, but no action was taken at that time.

“I just believe that we have to again request that some of these processes go forward,” he said.

Councilor at Large David Marcou said the City Council conducted a study in 2001 to determine the cost of a system that would reduce flooding issues in the city.

“It was going to be $9 million to do many of the projects that needed to get done to solve the water problem, and a number of councilors, one in particular being this current mayor, screamed loud and clear that we couldn’t afford to spend $9 million to fix that water problem,” he said.

“That money that we should have spent nine years ago would be cheap in comparison to what we’re spending today,” he said, adding that the city spends tens of million dollars alone on sewer problems associated with the water issues.

In addition to homeowner costs, the city lost money in hundreds of hours of fire department overtime, Marcou said.

Governor Deval Patrick visited Waltham Monday and declared a state of emergency due to the water levels. Councilor at Large Thomas Stanley said the city will pursue any state and federal funds for which it qualifies.

The City Council requested the mayor provide an update on the status on projects dealing with flooding in neighborhoods.

The Bright School will remain open as a day shelter for anyone who needs a place to get out of the rain. City Hall has made arrangements for families who were evacuated from their homes, and will continue to do so as flooding continues.

-- Town Correspondent Jessica Rudis contributed to this report.

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