Town weathers cold snap with no woes

SHIRLEY — No weather-related bad news was reported around town during last week’s deep freeze, as a spate of cautionary weather reports raised red flags across the region.

Despite frigid temperatures, it was pretty much business as usual during the two-day cold snap for town public safety departments such as Police, Fire and DPW, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said Jan. 8. “I haven’t heard about anything …” except that schools would open late on Friday, she said.

Superintendent Mary Malone later confirmed that the Ayer Shirley Regional School District, like others in the area that either canceled or delayed, had postponed the starting time by two hours for its four schools in Ayer and Shirley Friday morning.

The decision was based on student safety, Malone said.

Forecasters were predicting that with wind chill factored in, temperatures could dip to 25 degrees below zero Thursday night and might continue to be precariously polar Friday morning.

System issues that might arise in or around any of the school buildings could be more serious when it gets that cold, she said.

But the main concern was transportation, she said, explaining why the two-hour delay could have made a crucial difference.

Warnings turned out to be overstatements and it never got that cold, Malone said, nor did any difficulties crop up at any of the schools. But it was the right call to make at the time.

Her concern was that students walking to school or waiting outside for an early morning bus could be at risk for frostbite, Malone said, which would only take about 15 minutes in below-zero temperatures like those dotting last week’s weather map.

The good news, of course, is that the cold weather crisis passed without incident and there were no weather-related emergencies to report.

Roads were plowed and sanded last week as necessary, and as always, DPW Foreman Paul Farrar said this week.

This year, though, with the winter season less than half over, it’s also good to know the DPW is up to speed, with a long-awaited new truck added to the fleet and a restored, three-member, full-time crew on the job.

Standing outside on a bright but frosty morning, Farrar was unfazed by the newsworthy cold snap everybody’s been talking about.

“It wasn’t all that cold,” Farrar said as he and the two recently hired DPW laborers — David Schwartz and Brian Callahan — rolled the town’s new dump truck out of the garage for a picture Tuesday morning. “It was colder last winter.”

The new 20-ton truck replaces a 1994 International that had been out of commission for about the last five years. The $150,000 purchase was approved at last year’s Annual Town Meeting and ordered in July 2014, Farrar said.

It arrived last week, along with a new police cruiser that was also okayed by voters at the same ATM.