By: Tom Duggan – Oct. 20, 2018
RIVERA THROWS FEENEY OUT OF LAWRENCE
Despite denying responsibility for the gas explosions in the Greater Lawrence area on September 13th, and an NTSB preliminary report saying that sub-contractor Feeney Brothers may not have been responsible, Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera has thrown Feeney Brothers out of Lawrence during the restoration process.
Feeney Brothers is a Dorchester located construction sub-contractor that was working for Columbia Gas on Salem Street in Lawrence the day of the gas explosions that blew up hundreds of homes and resulted in more than 70 homes catching fire in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence.
Several firefighters were hurt responding to the disasters and one person died in the initial explosion on Chickering Road in Lawrence.
Hundreds of homes in the Merrimack Valley still have no gas service, including Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera who called out Columbia Gas for their absence more than 24 hours after the blasts began.
“Well, first I’m not happy that Columbia Gas blew up my city,” Mayor Rivera told The Valley Patriot. “I’m not happy about the response either.”
“I made it very clear to Columbia Gas this week that I do not want Feeney in Lawrence,” he continued.
“There are too many questions still unanswered and I know that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but why risk it?”
“We got a request to let them come in and let them do work on the gas lines in the city and I thought, ‘I don’t want anyone questioning the way we are going about restoring service. I don’t want residents seeing Feeney Brothers in the city until the NTSB comes back with a very clear definitive understanding of what’s going on, exactly what happened, and a final conclusion of who blew up my city and how it actually happened. As of right now we don’t have that and I don’t want them here.”
Rivera said despite which contractor or subcontractor was responsible for causing the gas explosions, “Columbia Gas is 100% responsible for getting us back to normal and getting people’s homes back to 100% by the 19th of November. That is what we expect and it better be done by then.”
ANDOVER THROWS FEENEY BROTHERS OUT OF TOWN
FOR SLOWING DOWN WORK AND CAUSING PUBLIC SAFETY CONCERNS
“They were doing what amounts to a work slowdown we assume, to get more overtime, starting their work late to get late shift differentials and when they were told to speed it up they gave officers a hard time,” our sources in Andover said.
Andover Police Chief Patrick E Keefe did not come right out and say Feeney was expelled from working in their town because of a “work slowdown for overtime” but did say that they were purposely starting work at the end of the work day, bleeding into the night time hours and cited “safety concerns” as the reason Feeney was thrown out.
“The sub-contractor [Feeney] was working in Andover this past week conducting work for the restoration process,” Andover Police Chief O’Keefe said in an email to The Valley Patriot.
“The task they were conducting was at the end of the daily work schedule. The task was taking them an extraordinary long time to finish. This caused day work to bleed over into the night work that was being conducted. This kept detours in placed that conflicted with night time detours causing large traffic issues at night in the dark. It became a public safety concern. We spoke to the contractor and informed them we did not want that sub-contractor conducting that work in town again during the restoration process.”
Andover Town Manager Flanagan said in an email to the Valley Patriot that there was no written document given to Feeney or Columbia Gas about the expulsion of Feeney.
NORTH ANDOVER STILL USING FEENEY BROTHERS, MAYLOR SAYS HE’S
NOT CONCERNED WITH OPTICS OR POLITICS
When contacted about Feeney still doing gas work in North Andover, Town Manager Andrew Maylor initially told The Valley Patriot that Feeney Brother was not doing work on gas lines in town, and that they were only doing paving.
Initially, Maylor said “It didn’t seem to make any sense to have a contractor that had any involvement in what happened but the nature of what they will be doing is only paving, so I have no problem with that.”
The Valley Patriot called gas workers to confirm the information only to learn that Feeney Brothers was indeed doing gas work in North Andover. We called Town Manager Maylor back to ask him about what we had learned.
“Can I get a redo on that,” Maylor asked when we contacted him a second time only minutes after the first call.
Maylor said that after speaking to The Valley Patriot he made some additional phone calls and learned that Feeney actually was doing work on the gas lines in town.
“I stand by my decision on them doing work in North Andover,” he said the second time around.
“I read the NTSB report and that, I think, was the game changer to my original sentiments of not wanting Feeney Brothers here.”
He said he was the one to originally raise the concerns with other elected officials asking if Feeney should work in town before restoration work began.
“That view was supported by people around the table, but that changed for me when preliminary report was released by the NTSB concerning who is responsible for the gas disaster. Residents should know we hired a 3rd party contractor to check the work and safety records of Feeney and that the track record of Feeney has been upheld. We do this for all of the contractors, and if we find they are doing anything unsafe they will be pulled off the job, immediately.”
“My view is that the NTSB report about the involvement of Feeney has been cleared, we are evaluating safety records and we feel like they are one of main contractors, and their involvement in the process is not inappropriate from my perspective. I can worry about optics and politics or I can worry about safety and gas restoration to the citizens of North Andover. I’m not political, as you know, and I’m not taking a political position. I’m taking a practical position. If they can get our gas up by the 19th, that’s what I care about for our residents.”
LABOR UNION PRAISES RIVERA, SAYS MAYLOR “SHOULD BE ASHAMED”
Mike Gagliardi, President of the Laborer’s Union Local 175 has 600- 800 laborers that are performing gas line installation, restoration, and the replacement of appliances to the affected properties in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover.
Gagliardi, who has been at war with Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera in the past few years said that Rivera had done an incredible job handling the situation.
“First and foremost, we would like to commend Mayor Rivera for not allowing Feeney Brothers to work in the great city of Lawrence. He has made the safety of the residents the paramount concern.”
Gagaliardi says he was not shocked to learn yesterday that Feeney Brothers were thrown out of Andover as well.
“How unconscionable is it for a contractor to participate in a work slowdown for their personal gain while the residents are without heat and hot water. The paramount concern for this project is to restore the residents to normal. There are approximately 600 laborers working tirelessly to restore the gas which will have the mainline finished within the next week – and approximately 75% of the services installed well before the November 19th deadline” Gagliardi added.
“Nisource/Columbia Gas should expel Feeney for exploiting this tragedy for their own personal gain, and not working expeditiously to restore Merrimack Valley residents to normal.”
Gagliardi also had harsh words for North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor and the North Andover Board of Selectmen for continuing to use Feeney.
“The town manager and Board of Selectmen in North Andover should be ashamed of themselves for not having the same concern for their residents as Dan Rivera has in Lawrence. All we have presently is a preliminary report from the NTSB related to this accident. It’s not final by any stretch. All we know for certain is that Feeney Brothers was working on the line that caused the explosions. But, the real question that remains unanswered presently is, if Columbia Gas gave a faulty work order to the sub-contractor, shouldn’t the sub-contractor have known there was something wrong with the work order or did they have no knowledge at all?”
“I find it peculiar that Feeney is not allowed to work in any of these other communities except North Andover. Town Manager Maylor may not be worried about the optics but, the real question is – are the resident’s safe? I would not allow Feeney Brothers to install a gas line to my home with all these unanswered questions.”
Gagliardi says that he didn’t believe Maylor was concerned with expedience, saying that if Feeney Brothers was removed from North Andover there would be no delay in gas installations for main lines or service lines to anyone’s home.
“It seems to me that Manager Maylor and the Board of Selectmen are playing politics to protect Feeney Brothers instead of worrying about the safety of their residents.”
The Valley Patriot asked Gagliardi if all the work will be done by November 19th
“As we have 600 laborers on the ground installing the gas lines all of the main lines will be installed by next week, along with about 75-80% of the services and the gas will be run to all homes prior to the November 19th date.”
A Valley Patriot source at Columbia Gas says that while this is true, it doesn’t mean that the gas will be turned on to people’s homes by the November 19th date, only that the lines will be connected. Each home will still have to be inspected and all appliances be replaced before gas can be turned back on to each home.
“We are in direct communication with State Rep. Diana DiZoglio,” Gagliardi continued.
“She has echoed our concerns about Feeney Brothers being in North Andover for the safety of the residents and the removal of Feeney Brothers from the project. I believe she has written a letter about it.”
RIVERA STILL FRUSTRATED
For his part, Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera says he still does not have gas in his home and the people of his city are still suffering. Asked how he was personally dealing with the situation given that he still has no gas himself, Rivera said it has been an ordeal.
“I try to keep my emotions in check about all of this. One of my favorite quotes from General Westmorland is about keeping your head about you while others are losing theirs. I’m frustrated about a lot of things right now. They blew up my city. The people of my city are hurting. I’m hurting, my family is hurting. There are people in harm’s way more than myself and my family, and if I’m not clear headed I’m not good and I’m no good to them. I can’t express enough how upset I am about all of this. We are all over Columbia Gas every day. I know that they are doing all the work they are supposed to be doing now, but that doesn’t change what happened here and that doesn’t make it any easier for us as a city to recover.