HANSON — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, Oct. 16 heard assurances from Columbia Gas of Massachusetts officials that, once a work moratorium ends on Dec. 1, it will continue in a safe manner.
“Help us make people in Hanson feel safe that you guys are going to be doing work here,” said Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett.
Whitman’s Board of Selectmen meeting the same night was canceled due to a posting issue. That board will meet at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 23.
Columbia’s Director of Governmental Affairs from the Westboro corporate offices Michael F. Kane and Field Engineer Nick Wilson out of the Brockton Division briefed Hanson Selectmen at the board’s request.
“We’re more interested in you guys’ assuring us that current gas project you’re working on at Whitman and Winter streets [is safe] — that’s been the kind of question that’s been asked by different residents,” Selectmen Chairman Kenny Mitchell said.
“We just want to make sure that you’re going to be putting protocols in place in our project that are going to prevent any type of catastrophic situation like there was in Lawrence and Andover,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
Kane said he could not go into detail about the investigation still being conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), despite the release of a preliminary report from that agency.
“There’s still more investigation that goes into it,” Kane said. “They’ve asked us not to talk about any more of the investigation” What he did outline was the difference between the companies divisions and the work they do.
“Nothing is intertwined with any type of gas lines running in between those areas,” he said. “All serve differently from the pipeline distributor that would provide gas to us. There are three different types of system and no relation to the Merrimack Valley incident and our piping here in Hanson.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett asked if the contractor is, indeed, the same as was involved in work in the Merrimack Valley when last month’s explosions and fires occurred.
Kane and Wilson confirmed that.
“We have many different contractors that come in, and of our contractors, all of them run operator qualifications [reviews] that have to pass through our Northeast Gas Association,” Kane said. “All of them have Massachusetts hoisting licenses — all of the licenses that are required to be a gas operator in the field.”
Contractors must meet the same qualifications as Columbia Gas employees, Kane stressed.
Selectmen Wes Blauss noted the Dec. 1 moratorium deadline was in place, but asked where the project stood in general.
Wilson said safety measures in place in Hanson include an underground regulator pit that is being brought above ground and replacing the two-regulator runs with a three-run station.
“We are installing the Cadillac of regulators,” Wilson said. “These regulators have numerous controls, numerous safety features on them. It’s going to be an upgrade to the station and to the property.”
Once the work is done, it will be run parallel to the existing system for a while until safety tests are completed, according to Wilson. While most of the piping in the street is done, he said that there are additional excavations needed to “liven those gas lines up” after the moratorium is lifted, but most of the remaining work will be in the station itself and a building constructed over it.
In other business, Whitman-Hanson Community Access TV Executive Director Eric Dresser presented an update to the board, including progress in the investigation of a vandalism that damaged the sign at the Whitman office this month.
“We’ve been in the news a couple of times this week,” he said, noting that they also shared footage of the medical emergency during the Friday, Oct. 12 football game with other media outlets. “The other was the vandalism that occurred in our building, which — I’m happy to report — we have identified a suspect for that who has admitted guilt and is going to make right on that.”
He said anyone who helped share security camera footage they posted online was instrumental in helping resolve that crime.
Dresser reported that fiber-optic transmission has improved the quality of video broadcast from meetings and other events. They have also installed new windows and security cameras while bringing their edit lab online.
He also brought in letters of support he hoped Selectmen would sign onto to prevent franchise competition resulting from new 5G hardware, which can be posted on utility poles, competing unfairly with their funding source. The other legislation of concern would permit cable companies to seek charge-backs to local access channels for what they consider in-kind services.
Selectmen also approved a request from Melissa Valachovic on behalf of the Hanson PTO to receive a reduced fee for use of Needles Lodge and Cranberry Cove at Camp Kiwanee for a Polar Plunge fundraiser on Sunday, Jan. 27.
“As an active member of the PTO, I’ve been trying to think of ways to bring the community together — and in a way that also supports the children here in our community,” Valachovic said. “My husband has been talking about doing a polar plunge for years and it never fits in with his schedule … We have Cranberry Cove in our town, a body of water that we could jump into when it’s really cold.”
She shared the idea with the PTO and town department heads over the summer and, after some initial doubts, all of the groups came on board. Safety, traffic and potential snow removal concerns were also discussed with public safety personnel as well as school officials.
Participants will be registered online and will be asked to line up sponsors.
“If you can get [Selectman] Jim Hickey to sign up and jump in, you’ve got my support” Mitchell joked.
Valachovic said she did hope some town officials or prominent citizens would sign up to support and participate in the project.
“Are you telling me right now you’re going to get me to go in, or would you rather do it in private, Mr. Chairman?” Hickey asked.
“We’ll do it in private,” Mitchell said.
Valachovic said Jan. 27 was picked because it was NFL Pro Bowl day “which nobody watches anyway,” but cautioned a weather delay would mean rescheduling it to Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3.
“But it’s in the morning, so you can [do the] jump, get warm and then be ready to enjoy the game,” she said.
If the pond is frozen over, she has already lined up the Fire and Highway departments to cut through the ice along the beach area.