City Council meeting gets heated with talk of Irene response

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – There were some very heated moments at City Hall Tuesday night as leaders discussed Richmond's response to Hurricane Irene. Council members accused the mayor's administration of not being prepared for the storm or the damage it caused.

The meeting started as a talk to pass a resolution, which could help the city get federal money. It quickly went downhill with a lot of finger pointing. Towards the end, police officers even waited outside to make sure things didn't take a turn for the worst.

Members of the public like Teddy Parham placed blame.

"I don't know how you all sleep at night, how you draw a salary and are such a freaking failure," she yelled.

Some city council members expressed remorse.

"We're lucky we didn't really have a disaster in comparison to what it could have been and what it was," explained Bruce Tyler.

Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall, on the other hand, offered somewhat of an apology.

"It was a miscalculation on everyone's part," he said.

In all that, one thing was clear at City Hall Tuesday night.

"We have some lessons that were learned from this process," Marshall said.

One prime example is that of the people who sought shelter at Huguenot High School and had to be taken clear across the city to the Arthur Ashe Center because the school didn't have back up power.

"To put a shelter at Huguenot as far away from homeless as humanly possible is as asinine of a choice I've ever seen in my life," maintained Councilman Marty Jewell.

CAO Marshall confronted the accusations.

"We clearly should have found a site with a backup generator," he told the gathering.

Several council members kept firing away. They wondered why there wasn't more communication before the conditions got increasingly bad and almost 70% of the city went dark.

"How in the ham sandwich are we going to get the information out to the people," Jewell asked.

City leaders acknowledged some accomplishments. Fire, police and EMS were praised. Crews have cleared 65% of downed wires and trees.

For now though, the message as we enter the height of hurricane season is that Richmond needs to rethink the way it looks at storms.

"I guess the lesson to us is over prepared," Marshall said.

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