HANSON — Selectmen will be meeting with a representative of Columbia Gas at the 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 16 meeting of the Board of Selectmen.
A hearing with the owners of the JJ’s Pub property is also being scheduled, to force them to clear away debris from the July 5 fire that destroyed the vacant building.
Selectmen had Building Inspector Bob Curran write letters demanding the property be cleared, with the last one — authorized on Sept. 18 — carrying a two-week deadline for a reply.
“We’re going to move forward as soon as possible,” Town Administrator Michael McCue said Tuesday, Sept. 25. That hearing will likely be Oct. 16. “We’ll line it up for that date and if something breaks in the meantime, we’ll have it lined up just in case.”
McCue reached out to Columbia Gas on Sept. 25 to arrange that meeting with the board and asked them to provide a representative to address any concerns about natural gas line and service safety Selectmen may have and to update them on the facility they are building in town.
“They’ve been very cooperative,” McCue said. “I continue to receive questions and concerns about the facility and the gas lines in general and [in] the town of Hanson.”
He said he expects that work on the new facility, still in the construction phase and referred to as a regulator station, at Whitman and East Washington streets is being done properly, but aims to have the public “hopefully glean a sense of security” that they are.
The existing underground regulator station is still in service and will remain in service until next summer according to a company official.
Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett had reached out to McCue on the issue as a result of multiple residents calls to her.
“Yes, Columbia Gas is an issue,” she said. “But now they’re finding that there were insufficient gas inspectors at the state level and they are questioning that. I also had somebody point out that it’s likely the same contractor that is being used here that was used in Lawrence, so we’ve got that additional concern.”
McCue said they became aware that the same contractor was involved after the Sept. 18 Selectmen’s meeting.
“I think it warrants somebody coming in and answering questions that the board may have,” he said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett said the main question would be how the company is going to negate any risks and make sure there is not a repeat of the Lawrence incident in Hanson.
“I don’t want somebody coming in and placating us and giving the song-and-dance or whatever,” she said. “I really would like to know what are they doing to vet contractors. … I’d rather that they mothball the project for awhile if they don’t have the right resources to do it properly.”
McCue noted it is a legitimate concern as the company, for appropriate reasons, is now focusing all its resources on the Merrimack Valley.
In other business, McCue said the town’s proposed Tax Incentive Financing (TIF) program article on the special Town Meeting warrant was being passed over Monday, Oct. 1 because the TIF Committee reached a consensus that more time is needed to prepare the proposal, which should be ready for the May Town Meeting.
The decision followed meetings last month with the state officials and TIF proponents.
“The TIF only takes effect in the coming fiscal year,” McCue said. “Since we had the extra time and we really weren’t going to put the proponent in an awkward situation, we made the decision, jointly, to go a bit slower.”
McCue and FitzGerald-Kemmett both stressed the postponement does not mean officials are not “extremely bullish” on pursuing the program, but the infrastructure is not yet in place and there is other information the town needs.
“We want to get the first one right,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “If this proves to be as beneficial as we think it will be, in improving Main Street, we’re hoping this will bee the first of several TIFs that we might entertain to get that area cleaned up.”