Protecting Attleboro from gas leaks

To Attleboro residents:

Our City Council has been debating what to do with the finalized investigation into the Torrey Street gas leak last April. Kudos to City Councilor Ted Kobus for leading a careful, probing, and fair investigation. It resulted in a resolution that he wants to send on to the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Utilities (DPU).

It reads:

WHEREAS, on March 4, 1998, an explosion caused by a natural gas leak in the basement of a house on George Street in Attleboro killed two city workers and injured seven others; and

WHEREAS, on April 22, 2019, days before the natural gas leak was detected, the Attleboro Water Department fixed a water main break on Torrey Street; and

WHEREAS, on April 26, 2018, a car accident at 124 Emory Street helped officials detect a natural gas leak on Torrey Street resulting in three houses being evacuated; and

WHEREAS, (that same night) Columbia Gas discovered and fixed a grade one gas leak on Torrey Street which was venting natural gas from the street into the evacuated houses; and

WHEREAS, the Attleboro Municipal Council, in accordance with Section 2-11 of the Attleboro City Charter, initiated a charter investigation to identify what happened leading up to the evacuation of houses on Torrey Street on the night of April 26th to determine if there was anything the City could have done differently in order to identify the natural gas leak sooner; and

WHEREAS, the Municipal Council investigation indicated that during excavation on April 22nd, the Water Department hit a service line stub which Columbia Gas failed to mark. The incident appeared to have resulted in the natural gas leak which caused multiple homes to be evacuated on the evening of April 26, 2019, and

WHEREAS, the following risk mitigation measures were enacted by the Attleboro Water Department after the incident on Torrey Street:
1. Standard Operating Procedures updated to describe a requirement to call 911 when discovering an unmarked utility;
2. Dig-Safe training delivered by Columbia Gas;
3. New gas detection equipment purchased which will now be used on job sites; and

WHEREAS, having met the stated goals of the charter investigation, the investigation was concluded on August 22, 2019.

I am proud of the City Council and Councilor Kobus for this thorough and fair investigation. A potential disaster was resolved on April 26 by the excellent work of Attleboro’s fire and police departments, along with the work of Columbia Gas representatives at the scene of the accident.

I wish Columbia Gas would have attended the public hearing when the investigation was underway. Water Dept. Wunschel did testify and was very professional and co-operative. I believe she helped develop an improved standard operating procedure in the event of future gas leaks in Attleboro. Columbia Gas has informed the Council that there are 103 current gas leaks in Attleboro that are not dangerous at this time. There is a distinct possibility that an active gas leak could become dangerous in the future, however.

The City Council debated whether to forward our investigation to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. I strongly favor asking DPU to review Attleboro’s incident and the resulting investigation. I believe Rep. Jim Hawkins will assist Attleboro residents and the City Council in our effort to bring this investigation before the Department of Public Utilities.

The Council is trying our best to help protect Attleboro residents from future gas related incidents/accidents. In light of Attleboro’s past history with gas leaks and the recent Lawrence/Andover, North Andover leak….. we must push forward and bring our incident before the Department of Public Utilities. And we hopefully will have the co-operation of Columbia Gas in this effort.

The Water Department is NOT being blamed in this April 26 incident at Torrey Street. Far from it. But we must do everything we can to ensure your safety in the future.

Submitted on September 12, 2019 by Ty Waterman, City Councilor At-Large.

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The Challenge of Campaigning

Friends… please allow me to share what it is like to campaign four hours a day. Six or seven days a week.

Campaigning on my bike is usually exhilarating and relaxing. I enjoy rolling up to front doors… chatting for a few minutes (sometimes longer depending on the concerns of the homeowner). Each visit can vary… talking about:

1. Attleboro schools, class sizes, need for more counselors, the gym floors that will be fixed at Hill Roberts and Hyman-Fine Elementary Schools.
2. Roads, potholes, sidewalks, a busted curb, speeding traffic, etc. This is one of the major issues that residents seem to have.
3. Rising property taxes, especially among senior citizens concerned about their economic future. I talk about senior programs, the work-off program that saves $600 a year, a break on taxes if their income is low, ideas that might help if they are unable to fully pay their quarterly taxes. Everyone is adjusting their financial plans to help pay for the new high school. I find most, but not all, agree with the need for the new high school…. but it isn’t easy to afford it. I also talk about the senior center, health insurance, help with income tax prep. Some seniors don’t know what is available for them through the senior center.
4. Neighborhood issues: run down local homes or vacant buildings that should be torn down.
5. The need for downtown Attleboro revitalization, parking, new businesses, beautification.
6. Our library needs help…. and we will be fixing the roof, windows, heating and cooling systems. The library is NOT MOVING. It is an historic, beautiful old building and I plan to help save it.
7. The need for civility in our politics. We can disagree but need to be respectful of one another. I am proud to say the City Council is a civil body of citizen legislators. We aren’t perfect but we really try to respect one another and serve our citizens.

I wish I was writing more at night about these issues… and I will try. Please understand that campaigning is ultimately tiring…. after 4-5 hours knocking on doors my body and mind begin to shut down. When I notice my mind cloud over…. it’s time to call it a day. Jan (my lovely wife) eventually calls my cell to tell me what we’re having for dinner and asks if I had a good day.

I remember hearing about a congressman who always came home for dinner. That was his most important goal of the day. Same with me. I join Jan and my dog (Chloey) around 6 pm, hug Jan and pat our pooch…. and unwind. I fall asleep in front of the TV by 8 or 9 pm…. wake up at midnite and head off to bed. Get a blessed sleep. Arise around 8:30 am and get ready for another day on the Trail. My goal is to reach all 16,000 potential voters…. (not everyone seems to vote). I won’t reach that goal… but I can dream… I can try.

On rainy days or when putting up signs, John Corrigan joins me on the Trail. Some of you might have met John, a true friend. On those days I actually drive up to homes…. which allows my body to recover and get ready to hop on my bike again.

I love campaigning…. but forgive me if I get tired after 4-5. I’ve lost ten pounds and am in better shape. But I do need my rest at some point.

Please call me at 508-577-1412 if I haven’t knocked on your door yet….. I’d love to meet you and listen to your thoughts.

ON THE TRAIL WITH TY; August 12

A TALE OF TWO GYMS:

Once upon a time Hill-Roberts and Hyman Fine Elementary Schools had beautiful twin gym floors. They were original floors in 1975 when the school opened. But now those gyms, designed for 20-25 years, are pushing 45 years old! Municipal funding is the only way to fix these gyms, They are not eligible for Mass School Building state funding.

When I toured both schools in February, 2019, these gyms struck me as ugly, way beyond their usefulness and unsafe. They were both covered with large areas of brownish gunk. Children were trying to run on those floors! So I tried to slide onto the brownish area and came to an immediate halt. I couldn’t slide. Beanbags can’t slide along those floors, much less children!

I serve on the Capital Improvement and City Development Committee of the City Council. Therefore, my highest priority are the Hyman Fine and Hill-Roberts school gyms, listed at $75,000 for each new gym floor.

Since May I’ve been advocating with city officials, families who have children at both elementary schools, with Superintendent David Sawyer and several School Committee Members. I figured it would be a year long effort with uncertain results.

But I really didn’t care. I didn’t want to see any children get hurt. I figured our high school gym would have been fixed a long time ago. I’m not going to quit my crusade….. that’s just how I am.

Today I got a phone call telling me that the city administration is going to ask the City Council to approve the funds to replace both the Hyman Fine and Hill-Roberts school gyms.

It felt like an answer to my prayers.

Tomorrow I hope to take a photo of both current gym floors. I want you to see these floors.

I hope I’m still on the city council when these two floors are finally fixed. I want to throw a bean bag across the new floors…. slide on them myself… and watch the children running and sliding….. safely!

Politics is full of windy roads… help me make these new gym floors possible. All my best … Ty Waterman, City Councilor At-Large

Attleboro COA

Darlene and Madeleine, Attleboro Senior Center directors:

Thank you for producing this list of cooling centers in Mansfield, Foxboro and North Attleboro on July 20-21, 2019. I can assure Attleboro seniors and all other citizens of Attleboro that I would do the same thing if the weather got real hot again. We need to be humane and caring toward one another in weather related emergencies. Asking people to stay in their homes, especially if they are not in air conditioning, is not the only option to deal with excessive heat.

I am so thankful for Father Brown and the staff at LaSallette Shrine for opening their hearts and their Welcome Center to Attleboro and Norton residents on July 20-21.

Rep. Jim Hawkins, members of Centenary Methodist Church, and the Hebron Food Bank who provided food and drink were also instrumental in helping us run the cooling center.

This cooling center did not cost the city of Attleboro a dime as LaSallette covered the cost of air conditioning. But even if it did cost Attleboro money, we should still provide relief in extreme weather conditions.

All my best,
Ty Waterman, Attleboro City Councilor At-Large

Note: This is a copy of my response to a list of local cooling centers in North Attleboro, Mansfield, and Foxboro that were opened in those town facilities the hot weekend of July 20-21. If you want a copy of the list of local cooling centers I suggest contacting Darlene Young at the Attleboro Senior Center. Attleboro did not have an official cooling center so the LaSallette Shrine opened their hearts and their Welcome Center to anyone who was suffering in the heat. Mucho gracias.-Ty

On Fri, Aug 2, 2019 at 10:52 AM Darlene Young <coaad> wrote:

On the Trail with Ty

ON THE TRAIL WITH TY: Thursday, July 25th

GREAT NEWS this morning. Our terrific state senator, Paul Feeney, has procured a $22,000 state grant to purchase a gear washer for the Attleboro Fire Department, presumably to be placed into the South Attleboro station on Newport and Read. Soon we should have two gear washers in place, the first one has been hooked up in the Union Street Fire Station. Now, we need to purchase second sets of gear for approximately 25 more fire fighters in Attleboro. Many kudos to the fire fighters, Mayor Heroux, Senator Feeney, and my fellow City Councilors.

We are trying our best to protect our fire fighters. The very first door I knocked on in Ward 4A today reminded me of the danger all fire fighters live with. The senior citizen who answered sadly told me her husband, a retired Attleboro fire fighter, was suffering from cancer. Then her phone rang and our conversation ended. It was a sad visit.

At the end of my day, I met with another senior citizen who lives on Torrey Street, which had a serious natural gas leak in April. She told me that the Attleboro fire department helped her evacuate her home when the gas had covered much of her front yard and there was a risk of an explosion. She and her son were evacuated safely and the leak was safely contained. It was a scary evening but our fire department came to the rescue.

I will continue to be a strong supporter of the Attleboro Fire Department. Let’s keep our own fire fighters safe, too.

Jim Hawkins beat the heat!

A Postscript for beating the heat….invite state Rep. Jim Hawkins to your cooling centers! Jim hovered around the cooling station at LaSallette throughout last weekend, teased those without smart phones, ran around the parking lot, and invited folks to enter the inner sanctum and stay cool.

Cool Hand Jim was definitely serving his people last weekend. He would have waved a fan in front of your face if you were getting hot!

Seriously, Jim was helping people stay cool all weekend. Thanks, Hawk!