Hudson departments rode out pandemic supply shortages, price hikes with state support


By Justin Roshak, Contributing Writer

Hudson town iconHUDSON – Everyone remembers the toilet paper shortages in the spring of 2020. But supply chain disruptions have hit local municipal departments, too. 

The issue recently reached Hudson’s Board of the Affordable Housing Trust, which owns and operates two public housing developments, when resident advocate Mary Lou McKeone brought up the issue of fading one-way signs at the Norma Oliver Village. 

“They have faded to the point where you can’t see them,” she told the Board at its Sept. 9 meeting. “I would like to see them repainted because people are going the wrong way.”

In response, Fire Chief Bryan Johannes said that a supply chain issue had delayed access to street paints.

“There was some issue with the supply chain for street paints,” he said. “Only recently some of the crosswalks in the downtown rotary got painted.”

Director of Public Works Eric Ryder told the Community Advocate the delay on the crosswalk paint had been three weeks. That was pretty good in his reckoning. On the whole, the DPW’s work has not been significantly affected by pandemic conditions, Ryder said. 

“A lot of the stuff we purchase is on state contract, so the price is set,” Ryder observed.

Steel prices have risen slightly, and construction materials are way up, he said. But the DPW uses few of those things in its everyday work.

“We don’t see it affecting our overall operations,” Ryder said. “We’ve been fortunate.”

Hudson departments whose equipment needs overlap with medical and public demand during a pandemic have not been so fortunate, seeing supply crunches and price hikes in the last year.

“At the beginning of last year, in March, we were placed on allocation by our medical supplier,” Johannes later told the Community Advocate. “Hand sanitizer, nitrile gloves, epi pens, Narcan, alcohol pads, you name it, we were having a tough time getting those supplies.”

“The entire supply chain got bogged down with orders and certain manufacturers couldn’t keep up with demand,” he observed. 

In response, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency stepped in to provide some essentials. 

Johannes estimated that the agency distributed about $10,000 worth of equipment to Hudson over the first 18 months of the pandemic, especially thermometers, hand sanitizer, and all types of masks, including KN95 masks, which were in high demand in early 2020.

Masks especially were the subject of intense price gouging, with markups of up to 400 percent in the worst cases, Johannes recalled. 

In that context, he said the state-purchased masks distributed to local departments helped those departments ride out the worst of the supply chain disruption.

Prices have since come down somewhat, Johannes said.