DUMMERSTON -- If disaster strikes at the nearby Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, Dummerston has a detailed response and evacuation plan.
But town officials have labeled that plan "unnervingly flawed," and they have refused to sign off on it.
Now, nearly a year after town leaders first expressed those concerns, a state official is pledging to help resolve them.
"We are here, and we want to work to make this work," said John Angil, a Brattleboro-based director for Vermont Emergency Management's Radiological Emergency Response Program.
Angil attended Dummerston's Selectboard meeting this week. He was responding to a letter dated Oct. 20, 2011, from Selectboard member Tom Bodett to the Vermont Department of Public Service.
Angil penned an Aug. 31 note saying his department had only recently been made aware of that letter. And he apologized for the delay when appearing before the Selectboard on Wednesday.
"If I'd have known earlier, I'd have been a whole lot quicker," he said.
Board members discussed the matter briefly but also said the ball is now in emergency planners' court.
"We went through this entire plan and wrote out our problems," Bodett said. "Now, we're handing it to the people who can put it in play."
Selectboard members have raised serious concerns that they believe present "threats to life and property" in the event of a Vermont Yankee emergency.
"Dummerston has gained the
The board questioned several key parts of the plan, including:
-- Evacuation routes: The plan calls for West Dummerston residents to cross Route 30 and the West River to get to Route 5 before heading north to a receiving center in Bellows Falls.
"It seems obvious that our west-side residents should evacuate directly up Route 30 to leave the area," Bodett wrote, further noting that some residents on the eastern side of the river likely would try to access Route 30 as well.
Given that two single-lane bridges span the river, "this creates a very predictable head-to-head jam-up," officials said.
-- Traffic control: Bodett wrote that "it has never been definitively explained who will be charged with traffic control in the event of an evacuation."
If left to town officials "without real authority or a means of enforcement, this could prove to be dangerous and ineffective," the letter said.
Questions about deployment of sheriff's deputies also have not been clearly answered, officials said.
-- School evacuations: Town officials wonder about the availability of bus drivers during an evacuation and question the feasibility of keeping students together rather than releasing them to their parents.
"This scenario, while well-intentioned, is highly unrealistic," Bodett wrote.
-- Aftermath: The Selectboard said its responsibilities are unclear after an evacuation.
During a drill, "one of our members proceeded to the Bellows Falls (Emergency Operations Center) as ordered by the plan and was met with wide eyes and wonder," Bodett wrote. "There was nothing in their plan to accommodate our plan."
-- The board also raised issues with transfer and receiving centers, provisions for re-entry into the evacuation zone and emergency notifications.
At Wednesday's meeting, Bodett said the Selectboard and town emergency officials have not been notified when "unusual events" have occurred at Vermont Yankee.
"The very first step of this great big plan has not worked so far," he said.
Angil sought to reassure the board on some points. For instance, he said a statewide call for coach buses would be issued to evacuate local students, and the National Guard would be mobilized to assist in evacuation efforts.
"I do feel comfortable that, in a real event, we could evacuate the people," he said.
But Angil also said he would meet with Rick Davis, Dummerston's emergency management director, to go through the plan and fix what can be fixed.
"We'll work through all the issues," he said.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.