Chamber faces challenges
Right after New Year’s, when the director of the Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce walked into the office, she noticed something was wrong.
“The temperature was about 20 degrees and the place was a mess,” said Patricia Inness Royall.
She was right. Over the holiday weekend, when the north wind pushed arctic air into the region, the oil burner’s fuel nozzle clogged, the furnace backfired, and blew up.
Royall noticed that much of the office was covered with lots of really nasty black gook.
When the furnace blew, it spewed black soot all over. It covered all the surfaces. It covered the furniture. It coated the walls, the insulation, behind the drywall. It was everywhere.
“I called the staff and we went to Caper’s to figure out a plan. Then we called the insurance company, a plumber, the furnace company and had breakfast,” she said.
One of the first friends she called was Bob Drury, the marketing manager of St. Andrews Village. “He said he would call me back in 15 minutes,” she said.
Drury came to the rescue. He called and said he had a vacant two-bedroom apartment we could use. "He told us to grab our stuff and come up."
Royall, and her staff, Kathrine Norcott and Sara R.Moore, gathered computers and other supplies and drove up Emery Lane to the retirement village. “Bob was waiting at the front door with a cart,” she said.
Then her faithful crew schlepped the computers, files, and office stuff into the small second-floor apartment in the village’s main building.
Immediately, they found themselves with two jobs: taking care of the regular Chamber business and pulling together the pieces needed to fix their building.
While they salvaged some of the computers, they quickly found out something was wrong. They could no longer link up. “The computers couldn’t talk to each other,” she said.
Oh yes. They had no office phone service. The only way they could communicate with the rest of the world was by using a staffer’s cell phone. One phone for the entire operation.
Then came the fun.
Like a lot of businesses and homeowners who are unfortunate enough to file an insurance claim, they quickly realized the smiling insurance sales agents and the giant companies they represent, the same folks who were so grateful for their business, were not in a hurry to investigate and pay off the claim, even if it was the local chamber of commerce.
“It took more than a month and a half to get an insurance adjuster out there who could make something happen,” said the director.
Meanwhile, the Chamber staff had to clean up the mess and they called ServePro.
This time, their calls were quickly answered. Soon cleaning crews were sent down from Brunswick.
Not only did they swab the decks, clean the walls and furniture, they offered to helped staffers coordinate other contractors.
One thing Royall insisted upon was that they use local contractors and they did.
The good news was that “Scott Yereance was able to rebuild our furnace.”
The bad news (in addition to the building filled with black soot) was that the pipes burst filling the basement with two and a half feet of water. It turned the storage space into a swimming pool where important things were doing the backstroke.
As the cleaners washed office equipment and furnishings, the chamber rented and filled a pair of storage units. Then contractors ripped out carpet, drywall, and flooring. The nasty job took time.
“It has been a long process, and not a nice one,” she said.
Meanwhile, Royall and the Chamber’s tiny staff is putting the final touches on their annual tourist guide, and talking with school officials to facilitate partnerships with students and potential employers.
At the same time, Royall and the staff are working on their next project, a Boothbay sculpture trail to be filled with big art from some of our great local artists. The plans call for the Chamber to install them, first in the downtown, then in locations that folks might not usually visit, like the tip of Newagen and Barters Island. A map will direct tourists to the different locations.
As part of the renovation process, they are carving out separate offices inside their building to provide a rental income and help pay the bills.
Royall says they plan, and hope, to be back in their old offices by May 1.
“We try to look at the positive (side) of things,” said Royall.
“But," she admits. "It is challenging, definitely challenging.”