UPDATE #64 (7 p.m.) Town of Andover Provides Update on Restoration Process Following Gas Emergency

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018

Media Contact: John Guilfoil
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 617-993-0003

 Town of Andover Provides Update on Restoration Process Following Gas Emergency

ANDOVER — The Town of Andover continuously seeks to provide residents and business owners with key updates regarding the ongoing recovery and restoration efforts following the Merrimack Valley Gas Emergency.

Restoration Timeline

The “House Ready” process is expected to be completed between Dec. 2 and Dec. 16, and a Rapid Re-light process has been implemented that will result in gas service being restored ahead of Dec. 2.

Gas service has been restored to 55 percent of businesses and 37 percent of residential gas customers in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence who lost service in the crisis that began on Sept. 13.

As of Thursday, 48 percent of all Andover residents who lost gas service have had their service restored.

Fifteen more Andover businesses had service restored on Tuesday. This means that 59 percent  of 127 of the 217 commercial gas customers in the affected area have now had their service restored. However, 90 Andover businesses remain without gas service.

Columbia Gas releases a daily briefing with updates on the progress of the restoration effort. Click here to read the briefing for Nov. 8.

Hot water heaters, stoves and dryers will be replaced and boilers and furnaces will be safely repaired or replaced with those being repaired eventually being replaced beginning in the spring.

Open House

Columbia Gas is hosting open house events for its corporate executives to answer questions from residents and business owners in all three affected communities. The Andover Open House is scheduled for this Saturday, Nov. 10 from 8-11 a.m. at the Doherty Middle School on Bartlet Street.

Appliance Disposal

The disposal of condemned or replaced appliances is part of the recovery and restoration process. Your appliances will be removed and picked up by Columbia Gas or its contractors. Residents and business owners should not endure any cost for disposing of appliances.

Free Parking Downtown

The Town of Andover is not currently collecting parking fees at municipal parking lots. The Town encourages downtown visitors to park in the municipal parking lots. This includes Lot 1 (between Andover Village Square and Caffé Nero), Lot 2 (behind Old Town Hall) and Lot 3 (Park Street Village). This will be evaluated on a weekly basis.

Business Social Media Campaign

Today, a group of town officials, high school students and public relations students from a Northeastern University School of Journalism class took to downtown Andover, visiting more than 30 town businesses and Tweeting with the hashtags   .

The students took photos inside each business to call attention to the vibrant and diverse group of shops and service providers who have persevered through the Merrimack Valley Gas Emergency for nearly two months.

You can view some of the results on the Town of Andover Twitter Page.

After the social medial campaign Wednesday afternoon, the volunteers were treated to a free pizza party courtesy of Bertucci’s on Main Street.

Information for Landlords and Tenants

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has released information for landlords and tenants affected by the Merrimack Valley Gas Emergency, which can be viewed in full here.

As a first step, the Attorney General’s Office encourages landlords and tenants to discuss the situation and work cooperatively to try to resolve issues. Landlords and tenants should discuss what claims each can make with Columbia Gas. For example, landlords should file claims for lost rent with Columbia Gas. Neither landlords nor tenants should suffer any financial loss. Columbia Gas is responsible for all losses caused by the gas explosions.

Tenants and landlords should be aware of their rights, duties, and protections under Massachusetts law. Tenants or landlords who are having problems can call the Attorney General’s Merrimack Valley Hotline at 617-573-5370 for help. Affected residents can request temporary alternative housing by calling Columbia Gas at 1-800-590-5571.

Self Mitigation Information

Columbia Gas has provided information on how residents can expedite the gas disaster mitigation process on their own.

For those who decide to go about repairing or replacing their own appliances, there are several steps that the utility has provided for residents interested in doing so.

To read the Columbia Gas mailer being sent to customers in full, click here.

The steps for self mitigation and restoration outlined in the mailer are:

  • Contact Columbia Gas and make the claims adjuster assigned to your case aware of your intention to self mitigate. Adjusters will walk residents and business owners through the process, including briefing them on the information they’ll need for later reimbursement. The Columbia Gas claims phone number is 1-800-590-5571.
  • Hire only licensed installers, who must obtain appropriate permits from the Town of Andover in order to complete the work. Work may include pressure testing, repair and replacement of gas lines, extension of outside gas lines, installation of appliances and completion of a town inspection. Once all of that work is completed, gas service may be restored to individual homes.
  • Work with a claims adjuster to purchase replacement equipment and appliances. Columbia Gas will reimburse customers for reasonable replacement costs of like kind and quality appliances, including making payments on their behalf or paying customers back for out-of-pocket costs.
  • Install equipment and appliances, and complete inspection. Once installation is complete, licensed installers will arrange a town inspection. Only work that has been appropriately permitted prior to completion will be eligible for an inspection.
  • Contact Columbia Gas for service restoration. Once inspections are complete, customers will receive either a green “house ready” tag, or an orange “house ready” tag depending on a home’s level of readiness for service restoration. To have service restored following self mitigation work, call 1-866-388-3239.

Save the Date: Holiday Happenings

Andover will celebrate its annual Holiday Happenings event on Friday, Dec. 7 from 4-8 p.m.. The event will feature a variety of activities, including photos with Santa, carnival and train rides, shopping, dining, fireworks and more.

The event will be held across a variety of locations throughout downtown, including Old Town Hall, Memorial Hall Library, Andover Historical Society, Center at Punchard and the park at Chesnut and Bartlet Street.

Alternative Housing 

Andover residents still have the option to seek free alternative housing while their gas service remains offline. Housing options include apartments, hotels and temporary trailers, and are completely paid for by Columbia Gas.

As of Wednesday, 570 Andover residents were being lodged in alternate housing arrangements, including 22 people in apartments, 502 in hotels and 46 in RV’s.

Impacted Columbia Gas customers who choose to be placed in alternative housing while their homes are without gas should call Columbia Gas’ Claims line: 800-590-5571.

Transportation arrangements will be provided for residents staying in hotels and apartments who do not have their own means of transportation.

A congregate shelter has been established for those in need. It is capable of hosting up to 1,000 people and will have hot meals available. The shelter is located at 46 Stafford St., Lawrence.

The congregate shelter has been established as a warming center with showers, and can accommodate residents for short-term overnight stays.

“Back to Business”

Columbia Gas has developed an integrated process to quickly restore business customers. The “Back-to-Business” initiative will assign a project manager to each business owner who will be responsible for addressing the businesses’ unique needs in order to make the business ready to receive natural gas. The project managers will proactively reach out to business owners to introduce themselves and will begin visiting businesses in the coming days.

Back to Business Centers

Under the direction of each project manager will be a fully integrated team including claims adjusters, plumbers, laborers and electricians to quickly restore business customers.

The “Back-to-Business” initiative’s integrated teams will work out of three business centers, located in each of the affected communities.  These centers will serve as the operation center for construction operations managers, claims representatives and linguists, and will work to build customized plans for each business based on their assessed needs.  While business owners will be hearing from their project manager proactively, these centers are open to the public should business owners choose to visit them during the claims and recovery process.

The locations of the “Back-to-Business” Centers are:

  • 439 South Union St., Lawrence: Construction Operations Manager Derrick Seitz
  • 45 Main St., Andover: Construction Operations Manager Jeff McCaples
  • 115 South Main St., North Andover: Construction Operations Manager Charlie Romano

The centers will be open from Tuesday to Friday from noon-8 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

To view businesses in Andover that are located in the affected and are currently open for business visit: www.andoverma.gov/andoverbiz 

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