Published November 30. 2012 4:00AM
Westerly - The Misquamicut Beach landscape is still dominated by large mountains of sand and large yellow equipment, but much progress has been made cleaning up the community in the month since Hurricane Sandy.
On Thursday, public works employees from Stonington helped further the effort, working a full day volunteering their time collecting brush and turning it into wood chips. They'll be back there this morning - three men, a dump truck, a wood chipper and a pickup truck - for another work day.
"We're very appreciative," said Peter Chiaradio, the Westerly superintendent of the Public Works Department. "The towns have a great working relationship, and I feel it starts right at the top with the selectmen and town manager. We've worked together on other projects, like bridge work, so we're familiar."
Also helping in the cleanup were the Rhode Island towns of Lincoln, Johnston and North Providence. But Stonington and Westerly, separated by a state line, have formed a special relationship. It's an offer of free help, too, which the hard-hit Westerly was more than happy to accept.
For Stonington Public Works Director Joe Bragaw, whose department has seen its fair share of cleanup work after the storm, it was an easy decision.
"They had a lot of devastation down by Misquamicut, so we're just trying to help them out," he said. "Even though we're still cleaning up, we knew there was a neighbor in need."
It's a normal work day, but in a different town, for the Stonington crew, which arrived at 7:30 a.m. and worked until 3 p.m., ridding the community's streets of brush, turning it into wood chips and transporting the chips to the Westerly transfer station.
But for Chiaradio, it's an incredible help as he races against a Federal Emergency Management Agency deadline to get work done. After a certain time period, FEMA no longer reimburses the town for Sandy-related work, he said.
"We're plugging away to finish by deadline," Chiaradio said. "It's been nonstop this month."
A contractor assisted the town in clearing the roadways of sand; the entire length of Atlantic Avenue, which once was covered by feet of sand, has been cleared. Private properties are using their own contractors for work, Chiaradio said, but the town continues to remove storm-related debris that residents place curbside.
It's work the Stonington three are used to.
"We've had lots of mutual aid in the last couple years and ongoing communication about who needs what," Bragaw said. "When someone calls, we go."