GEORGETOWN — Selectmen voted 3-1, with one member absent, earlier this week to send a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission endorsing a push by area legislators for a hearing on evacuation plans in towns near the Seabrook nuclear power plant.

Stephen B. Comley Sr., who has been speaking out about his concerns whether first responders in cities and towns near Seabrook Station have adequate evacuation plans, spoke to the Board of Selectmen on Monday night.

Comley, a Rowley resident and founder of the group We The People, urged the board to write to the NRC calling for a public hearing at which first responders could air concerns about whether they could safely and quickly evacuate towns near Seabrook, especially at the height of the summer tourist season.

Comley said state Rep. Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and former Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins all backed his quest for an NRC hearing.

Selectman Gary Fowler, serving as acting chairman in David Surface’s absence, said Georgetown was outside the 10-mile evacuation zone, but it was his understanding residents would be asked to shelter in place if an accident occurred at the 27-year-old Seabrook plant.

Fowler said he had spoken with Georgetown Police Chief Donald Cudmore, who expressed confidence in the town’s ability to handle an emergency. But Fowler said he reviewed some of the emergency information from the NRC and found it dated back to 1995.

Fowler, who said at the beginning of the discussion he had known Comley for many years and they attended the same church, said he supported the idea of writing a letter to the NRC supporting a public hearing.

Comley stressed that he wasn’t advocating shutting down Seabrook Station.

“We’re not asking for a shutdown. We’re trying to find out if we’re prepared for an accident if it happens,” he said.

Selectman Joseph Bonavita said he supported the idea of learning more about what the board and townspeople would need to know about evacuation or emergency plans.

“What can we do to educate our town about the worst-case scenario because I don’t think we know anything,” he said.

Bonavita supported the idea of endorsing a letter calling for a public hearing, but added, “the more immediate action is to educate our own town, within a town setting.”

Fowler said, “We need to be concerned about the citizens of Georgetown. How does this affect us as a board and the town?”

Board member Steven Sadler said he felt he needed more time to read the packet of information Comley gave selectmen, but would not be averse to endorsing a letter at a later date.

Selectman Douglas Dawes moved to send a letter to the NRC endorsing the push by Tarr and Hill, calling for a hearing for first responders. 

The board voted in favor, with Sadler opposed. 

Richard K. Lodge can be contacted at rlodge@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @RichardLodge_DN.

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