Clearly, there was a fair amount of confusion the night of May 9, when Essex officials and residents reconvened their community's Annual Town Meeting for a second night. And that confusion led to Town Meeting turning thumbs down on an article that would approve submitting the town's latest flood plain map to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in what may have seemed a fairly innocuous vote.
Thankfully, it took less than 24 hours for Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki and others to recognize that the vote could have a very real impact on Essex property owners. Zubricki's recognition started the ball rolling toward reversing the vote prior to a looming July 1 deadline — and, just as thankfully, 37 Essex voters made the right call Monday night when they belatedly voted to approve submitting the maps in a Special Town Meeting.
The FEMA program ensures that residents who live within flood zoning areas and are not covered by private insurance companies can buy coverage. A rejection of the map article, however, tentatively left those residents and business owners out of the flood insurance picture — and that obviously could have meant big trouble if the May 9 vote had stood.
There was a context to the May 9 vote. Local lawyer John Guerin said he opposed the new bylaw that night because he feared its loose language could wrongly prevent construction in some areas. But on Monday, Guerin was among those who approved the revised article and put the Essex maps — and insurance protections — back in place.
He and other Essex residents deserve credit for recognizing the needed to turn out for the new vote. But the real credit goes to Zubricki, the other officials and resident activists such as Cliff Ageloff who recognized the hidden effect of the first vote — and took action while there was still time to fix it. Well done.