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October 11, 2012

Bassett street closure plan 'inappropriate'


COOPERSTOWN — Bassett Medical Center will be hosting a large scale emergency preparedness exercise from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct.13.

Bassett announced in a mailing to residents of the affected area that Beaver, Fair and part of Pioneer Streets would be closed during the drill.  Village officials knew nothing of Bassett’s street closure plan until Tuesday when they also received the courtesy mailing.

DPW Superintendent Brian Clancy said he learned of it when someone handed him the mailer from Bassett.

“They haven’t involved the public works department,” he said. “In the past, public works was included in Bassett’s emergency preparedness planning.”

Police chief Mike Covert said he was part of the planning process for Saturday’s drill, but was unaware Bassett had thought it would, or could, close village streets.

Mayor Jeff Katz was also surprised to hear of the plan.

“Bassett has no authority to close the streets,” he said. “It’s inappropriate for Bassett to send a letter to residents that streets were going to be closed.”

Bassett spokeswoman Karen Huxtable-Hooker said Tuesday afternoon that Bassett’s emergency preparedness manager “thought it would be a good idea to close the streets.”

In a follow up email Wednesday morning, Huxtable-Hooker wrote, “It appears that there was just a misunderstanding of who had notified the village.”

“It’s a process issue. It’s a constant battle I wish we didn’t have to have,” Katz said. “All I’m asking is for the proper process to be followed.”

He said the village would be happy to accommodate the need to close streets for an emergency drill, but that Bassett needs to follow the village’s procedures.

Now, rather than closing the streets for three hours during the drill, traffic may be temporarily detoured around Beaver, Fair and parts of Pioneer Street. People living on those streets will be able to come and go as necessary.

According to a media release from Covert, the hospital conducts emergency exercises throughout the year to assure that they are prepared as possible to respond to a crisis. This exercise, because they are partnering with first responders, is more involved than previous drills and may necessitate the brief closures.

Covert described the training exercise as an active shooter drill that will involve Bassett Medical Center, village of Cooperstown Police, Otsego County Sheriff’s Office, NYS Police, Cooperstown Fire Department, EMS and Otsego County Emergency Preparedness.

As part of this drill, residents may see more than the usual number of emergency vehicles

arriving or departing from various parts of the hospital campus.

Covert wants residents to be aware that it is only a drill.

“We appreciate your patience and understanding as emergency responders continue to work with Bassett to improve our emergency response,” he wrote in his release.