2018-03-01 / Front Page / JT Beacon

Arundel, Kennebunk pass proposal for combined emergency shelter

Kennebunkport and RSU 21 to vote on measure next
By DINA MENDROS
Associate Editor

KENNEBUNK — Selectmen in Arundel and Kennebunk have approved an emergency shelter initiative that would create a combined emergency shelter for Arundel, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport.

To move forward, the Kennebunkport Board of Selectmen, as well as the RSU 21 School Board of Directors, must also approve the memorandum of understanding that includes a shelter for up to 200 people at the Middle School of the Kennebunks. The RSU and Kennebunkport both meet next week.

Under the proposal, the Dorothy Stevens Center would be the first shelter to open for residents of the three towns and pets. Once the threshold for residents that can be housed at that center is reached, the middle school, which is nearby, would open. People would be moved to the school; pets would be put up in the center. The Animal Welfare Society, located in West Kennebunk, would assist in sheltering the pets.

Previously, Kennebunk has used the fire station for emergency shelter, according to a town document. But nationally, communities have moved away from using public safety buildings as shelters as these facilities are used as bases of operation for response and mitigation of problems.

“Each community is responsible for its local sheltering,” Kennebunk Fire Chief Jeffrey Rowe told the Kennebunk Board of Selectmen on Tuesday. But over the past few months, there has been discussion about "Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel and the RSU to work together to do the sheltering of the three communities in one location,” 

Of those involved in the discussion of the proposal, under which the three communities would share staffing of facilities and the cost, he said, “Everyone is very positive that this will come to fruition.”

Arundel approved the plan on Monday, and Kennebunk did the same on Tuesday. The RSU board will vote on March 6 and Kennebunkport selectmen will vote on the proposal on March 8.

In the past, the number of those needing shelter during an emergency has been about 25 people, he said. The proposal calls for housing a maximum of 200 at the school, Rowe said, “because there are controlling factors under which a shelter can qualify and a controlling factor at the middle school are the bathroom showering facilities.”

“Will we ever need it (200 spaces)? Hopefully not, but once we reach that folks will be redirected to more of a regional center,” he said. He added that the the town of Wells provides shelter for the region at their schools.

Councilor L. Blake Baldwin, said he was concerned that people would be housed in a shelter separate from their pets if the number of those needing shelter required the use of the middle school.

“The pet owner will still be responsible for walking and feeding” their animal, Rowe said, which would require multiple visits between the owner and their pet. In addition, he said, the middle school is very close to the Dorothy Stevens Center.

If approved, both staffing and funding of the emergency shelter initiative would be shared equally between Arundel, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport.

The cost for the first year, that would pay for 50 cots, rodent control, hygiene kits and other items, is $3,345, to be split three ways, said Rowe. Each year, he said, 50 additional cots and other supplies would be purchased until the required 200 cots were acquired.

“This is a wonderful demonstration of a initiative that comes together with everyone working cooperatively,” Kennebunk Town Manager Michael Pardue said.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Arudel Town Manager Keith Trefethen said, as all three communities have limited staff and funds.

The emergency shelter initiative provides “the ability to work together to combine expertise and staff and should benefit all communities,” he said.

— Associate Editor Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324, or dmendros@journaltribune.com.

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