MELROSE, Mass. - For the first time since the devastating and disgusting sewer backup began in Melrose, Mayor Gail Infurna's administration was publicly grilled inside city hall.
Those who packed Thursday night's standing-room-only meeting did not censor their words and their opinions of how city officials have handled the situation.
"Melrose step up to the plate now, say, 'we made the mistake, we’re going to fix your homes,'" said Melrose resident Rick Greski at the meeting. "Get these people some shelter that some of them don't even have tonight. They're out of the hotels […] shame on us, that's ridiculous."
The meeting that began at 7:30 Thursday evening and continued on for more than three hours.
This comes nearly a month after raw sewage erupted into four homes on Brazil Street in Melrose.
Three out of the four families remain displaced. Those families tell Boston 25 News that they still don't know where they’re going to live long term or who's going to pay for tens of thousands of dollars in cleanup and restoration.
One of those homeowners, Silvana Ortiz, claimed that the Board of Health initially told her it was okay to return home, even though there was obviously still raw sewage inside.
"When the Board Of Health Director was in the house there was still sewage in the house and she gave it the okay," Ortiz said. "They were still giving the okay, fit for occupancy – which blows my mind."
Ortiz and many others believe the city should be doing more to accommodate residents, including providing more financial assistance.
The mayor responded, saying that the city has provided $40,000 to affected residents and provided them with $200 Target gift cards from the emergency fund. She added that paying more would be fiscally irresponsible.
The affected homeowners and many other residents are pointing the finger at the city, accusing them of not properly maintaining old pipes and for not taking any responsibility.
Following Thursday's public comment, Mayor Infurna was called to the podium.
"This was an unusual event, it had all the elements of a perfect storm," the mayor said. "The pitch of a pipe, the velocity of the sewage and the fact that the homes were built on slabs all made this an extraordinary case."
The mayor admits that there has been a gap in communication between city departments in their response to the sewer backup. She added that they're currently working on revising their protocol.
The Director of Public Works in Melrose tried to explain to visibly outraged residents that the city’s old infrastructure has a documented history of sewage leaks. He also claimed officials have used $6 million from a state program in their on-going efforts to make improvements.
"There were decades of negligence and the systems were absolutely, totally ignored years ago," said John Scenna, the Director of Public Works.
"If we fall short it's not because of negligence and bad intention, but simply because we are human," Mayor Infurna said.
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