By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING – Kinder Morgan, the company that wants to build a natural gas pipeline through North Reading, has had a standing request before the town for weeks to be allowed to come on town owned land and survey for the path the pipeline will take as it follows the route the company has apparently settled on.
The Selectmen debated the pipeline issue for well over half an hour at their last meeting and although a vote was never taken, it was clear the board’s opinion was solidly against letting the company come onto town owned land any time soon.
Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto reported he’s had multiple requests from Kinder Morgan to survey on town land. Gilleberto will draft a letter to reflect the board’s majority on the matter and it’s expected the issue will be back on the agenda for the March 9 Selectmen’s meeting. At that time, it appears the board will vote to deny access.
Gilleberto reported he has been notified Kinder Morgan has also been in town surveying on public ways. The T.A. said he has put the energy company on notice they have not been approved to survey on public ways, either.
Selectman Stephen O’Leary said he has no interest in engaging in any type of business relationship with Kinder Morgan and he wants a better choice for the town. At the very least, he was opposed to letting them on town owned land until the town is provided with more information.
Selectman Michael Prisco agreed the town shouldn’t let anyone on its property or take any action on the pipeline until required to do so by FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Most of the board members and town officials attended an informational open house on the pipeline at the Wyndham Hotel in Andover in February sponsored by Kinder Morgan. The company had originally scheduled a similar open house for North Reading but cancelled and rescheduled the event for Andover. Board members were critical of the fact the open house went forward despite the absence of a representative from FERC.
Selectmen Chairman Robert Mauceri said the presentation was basically informal with more accurate maps of the pipeline route than town officials have seen in the past. The town engineer is working on getting a more detailed map with the list of all the North Reading properties that would be affected.
The absence of FERC at the meeting, reportedly because of a winter storm in Washington, D.C., bothered the Selectmen because FERC has been present at all the previous informational open houses. Mauceri said the town was considering sending a letter to the town’s federal legislators complaining about FERC’s absence.
Gilleberto said he talked to Congressman Seth Moulton’s office and his staff was sympathetic to North Reading’s concerns but they weren’t sure what could be done to remedy the situation.
O’Leary said Kinder Morgan’s behavior has been relatively unresponsive and evasive throughout the entire process “and I think it’s intentional.”
“It was a dog and pony show they have to do on a regular basis,” he added. He said the natural gas needs of New England can already be met and what Kinder Morgan really has in mind is shipping the gas overseas.
O’Leary wanted to get the town’s elected representatives, including U.S. Senators, congressman, the governor, state representative and state senator to commit where they stand on the pipeline. There are other and better routes out there for Kinder Morgan to take with the pipeline but they seem intent on taking the cheapest route possible, he charged.
Town won’t pay to plow sidewalks
There are still a lot of sidewalks on Main Street that were never cleared of snow as required by a town bylaw, T.A. Gilleberto reported to the Selectmen. The February storms came so closely bunched together and left so much snow behind that some businesses that made a good faith effort to clear their sidewalks after the first blizzard fell behind and now there’s several feet of the white stuff still blanketing the sidewalks. Other sidewalks have never been cleared.
Gilleberto said he had a price estimate of $8,000 to $10,000 to have the sidewalks plowed by the Department of Public Works rather than leave it in the hands of businesses. But the Selectmen were unenthusiastic about the idea.
Selectman Prisco was not in favor, noting that quite a few business owners had met their responsibilities by clearing their sidewalks and for the town to step in now would be rewarding those who neglected it.
“These are adults who are running businesses,” Prisco said. He suggested the town advise businesses they have seven days to comply with the town bylaw and after that they will be fined.