AYER — Town officials are trying to get accurate details out to residents about the motel that has contracted with the state to assist in housing 30 migrant families and would like to help avoid any misinformation. During a Sept. 19 meeting, Ayer Town Manager Robert Pontbriand wanted to stress both that this is not the town’s shelter and that he doesn’t have much information yet but things could change.
“This remains a fluid process,” Pontbriand said.
The town of Ayer was notified on Sept. 8 that the state was partnering with Fitchburg-based Making Opportunity Count (MOC) to house migrant families in an Ayer motel, releasing a public notice days later. The shelter was a result of the emergency declaration made recently by the governor and the “right-to-shelter” law.
He said the number of families estimated equals approximately 150 people and, in response to residents asking if the town is funding the shelter, the town manager said it is not.
“We’re really trying to stress that it is on the state and federal level … we happen to be, for lack of a better term, the host community,” said Pontbriand. “The motel is a private entity that has contracted with the state, which is contracted with the nonprofit to administer.”
In response to a question at the meeting, Pontbriand said he was not informed of the exact status of the families but said they could be coming from a wide range of situations, from displaced Massachusetts families to families from Ukraine or South America.
“This is what we understand. It could be migrants. It could be immigrants. It could be refugees, families that are displaced,” he said. “The term ‘migrant’ is what the governor’s office is using. We were told to use to the term migrant … it could be all of the above.”
The town has been contact by many organizations and individuals trying to lend a hand and they will release information of that kind as the situation evolves.
“Planning for those efforts are underway. We hope to have some specific information for folks that want to help in some capacity,” said Pontbriand. “The key is for it to get set up and for us to find out what they need and what they don’t need.”
Since the town was notified about the migrant shelter, town departments have been working to prepare.
“We have spent, since [Sept. 8], an enormous amount of time trying to interface with the state and MOC to make this as safe and smooth and successful as possible,” he said. “The town’s inspectional staff; building, fire, Board of Health have done their inspections. There were some issues that MOC and the state are addressing to ensure everybody’s safety.”
He did say one recent town hire was particularly helpful.
“Our town’s social worker Brittany Beaudry couldn’t have come at a better time. She’s been straight out on this issue,” said Pontbriand.
Select Board members asked a few more questions and some agreed that they would like to see someone from the state’s legislative delegation come to a meeting to talk about the shelter. Pontbriand said that the legislators are aware.
“We appreciate everybody’s patience. This is sort of where we’re at,” he said. “We’ll just take it one day at a time.”
According to the town manager, 81 communities throughout the state are hosting migrant families “in some form.”