Chatham Town Offices To Be Closed Four More Weeks

By: Tim Wood

Chatham seal.

CHATHAM – The town offices will be closed for the rest of the month as a result of the power surge last month that damaged or destroyed a significant amount of the building's electronics.

A power spike caused by an Eversource equipment failure April 27 shut down the 549 Main St. building and forced departments to relocate while repairs are being made. Currently the town clerk is operating out of the community center (where the town election will be held today), the finance department is at the annex and the town manager and human resources departments are working at the fire department.

The incident caused extensive damage. According to Finance Director Alix Heilala, the front portion of the building, which is the oldest section, is being rewired. Equipment throughout the building was damaged or destroyed, including copiers, computers, dehumidifiers, mini-splits and surge protectors. In addition, lighting equipment and the building's heating, ventilation and air conditioning system suffered damage. Repairs have already been made to the building's alarm system, elevator and boiler. Work on the fire suppression system and low-voltage network wiring will be done in the coming weeks.

Complicating matters was the detection this week of gas leaks within the building, according to a Wednesday morning press release. Slow failure of joint sealants on gas pipes are likely another result of the surge, the press release said.

Heilala said she has received invoices so far totaling more than $75,000, and the cost to replace equipment is estimated at just over $60,000.

The town will submit the costs to its insurance carrier, she said, as well as submitting a damage claim to Eversource. There is a $25,000 deductible on the town's insurance. That, plus immediate payments, can be made through the town's special revenue fund, she said.

Eversource said that the surge occurred when equipment designed to protect a transformer failed during an outage restoration. The resulting voltage increase caused the damage. The equipment is scheduled to be replaced on May 23, according to the town's press release, and will include a scheduled power outage for the town offices and 33 and 37 Cross streets from 7 to 9 a.m.

Town departments can be reached at their usual phone numbers and email addresses, and the drop box for bills at the town office is being checked daily, according to Town Manager Jill Goldsmith.

This is an update of a story that appears in the May 19 print edition.