Avon High School could be designated as an American Red Cross regional emergency shelter when needed during major disasters, if a proposal under discussion is approved.
At a meeting last week, Town Council members asked Town Manager Brandon Robertson for more information, particularly about the plan's implications for residents.
“We had an opportunity to have a dry run with what we experienced most recently," said Robertson, referring to Hurricane Sandy, which peaked in Avon on the eve of the October snowstorm anniversary on Oct. 29. “It was really quite well done. We can sort of cobble something together for a shelter, but this is what the Red Cross does."
The Red Cross wants to concentrate its resources in a "high-impact geographical region," Robertson told the council.
One of the benefits of Avon entering into a regional shelter agreement with the Red Cross is that the organization would likely cover the bulk of the cost, according to Robertson.
“When they open a regional shelter, they pay for it. They cover the cost," Robertson said. “We’re very optimistic about it. … There is potential there may be some services that are not covered by the Red Cross...."
Councilwoman Pamela Samul (R) asked how things went with the shelter in the high school cafeteria when the Red Cross was there helping during Hurricane Sandy.
Robertson admitted there were some issues.
He said that if the regional agreement were in place, there would be a meeting in advance to plan, "but we did it on the fly this time."
Robertson and Councilman David Peña (D) acknowledged complaints about a lack of hot water in the showers at the high school during Sandy. Some questions raised were who would fund any possible repairs to ensure hot water and what requirements would come with having a regional shelter.
“I’m not aware of anything that they require that we don’t have in place," Robertson said.
A regional shelter would be open to people from the Farmington Valley and other towns in addition to Avon. Robertson said that the town does not want to run into a situation where area municipalities don't open their own shelters because Avon's is regional.
“The Red Cross has a policy. They won’t turn people away," Robertson said. “You lose some control because, again, anyone can be there. … Last year we had a lot of people who weren’t Avon residents or residents of Connecticut for that matter (using the shelter).”
So it could mean Avon residents would have to go elsewhere if the shelter reached capacity.
“I can’t see turning away Avon residents when they’re paying the tax dollars here," Councilman Christopher May (R) said.
Robertson is going to gather more information and said he will keep the council updated before a formal agreement is made. He also plans on talking to area towns about the plan.