A 'Difficult and Grueling Weekend' Following Mass. Gas Explosions

One of multiple houses that went up in flames on Thursday afternoon after gas explosions and fires triggered by a problem with a gas line that feeds homes in several communities north of Boston

One of multiple houses that went up in flames on Thursday afternoon after gas explosions and fires triggered by a problem with a gas line that feeds homes in several communities north of Boston Bob Salsberg / AP Photo

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Cryptocurrency mining policy in Missoula … ongoing health worries in Minneapolis homeless camp … and too-tall trucks vs. Michigan’s low-clearance bridges.

Good morning, it’s Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. The remnants of Hurricane Florence dumped “staggering amounts of rain” on North Carolina and South Carolina this weekend and the storm has “left swollen rivers ready to overrun their banks” in the coming days. As that story continues to unfold, a disaster of a different type—last week’s series of natural gas explosions in Massachusetts—leads Route Fifty’s state and local government news roundup, but scroll down for more from places like Lansing, Michigan; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and St. Simons, Georgia.

STATE GOVERNMENT | After what he described as a “difficult and grueling weekend for the residents of Andover, North Andover and Lawrence,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said that power was restored to about 15,000 residents in communities impacted by Thursday’s series of natural gas explosions. But the governor urged caution and told residents returning to their homes to not turn their gas back on. According to a National Transportation Safety Board official, the investigation “is partially focused on pressure sensors that were connected to a gas line that was being taken out of service shortly before the blasts.” [MassLive; AP via WCVB]

  • Napa County, California: State fire investigators are still trying to determine the exact cause of the costliest wildfire in California history, last year’s Tubbs Fire, which started in Napa County and quickly spread through Sonoma County and into the city of Santa Rosa, killing 22 people and destroying more than 5,000 homes. “Winds in the blaze’s first hours carried embers across hillsides and from home to home, creating multiple ignition points that investigators have to map out. That will help them create a timeline for the fire.” And that will also help them determine liability. [Los Angeles Times]
  • Lansing, Michigan: The problem of too-tall trucks striking low-clearance bridges isn’t necessarily as simple as truckers making a big error in judgment out on the roads. Although truckers with loads exceeding 13 feet 6 inches in Michigan are supposed to secure a state permit—one that comes with a custom route from the Michigan Department of Transportation that avoids low-clearance bridges—trucking companies say the process is too complicated and leads to compliance problems. [Detroit Free Press]
  • Chambersburg, Pennsylvania: State agriculture officials are expected this week to announce funding for new dairy development as part of an effort to help producers, “who are experiencing an extended span of low milk prices.” [Herald-Mail]

LOCAL GOVERNMENT | The city of Minneapolis will likely miss a deadline previously set by Mayor Jacob Frey to have the the largest homeless encampment in the state, located off Hiawatha Avenue, cleared by the end of September. Temporary shelter should be ready by early October, Frey said in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio. As the Star Tribune reports: Public health officials remain worried about the camp, where there are “several known cases of a drug-resistant bacterial infection known as MRSA,” among those camped out in close quarters. The camp, along Hiawatha Avenue southeast of downtown, has attracted many homeless American Indians, including families. The heads of “several nonprofits and Indian-run organizations have expressed frustration at what they see as a slow humanitarian response by government officials to the medical needs and substance-use problems of camp dwellers.” [Minnesota Public Radio; Star Tribune]

  • Missoula County, Montana: County commissioners plan to discuss cryptocurrency mining policy and “consider ways to possibly mitigate impacts like noise, electronic waste and energy consumption from commercial and industrial development.” [Missoulian]
  • Berkeley, California: The Berkeley City Council recently approved a measure "wherein all City-owned and City-managed facilities and programs will provide only plant-based foods on Mondays (or another day of the week)." [SFGate]
  • South Haven, Michigan: The South Haven City Council on Monday will, for the first time, have its official meeting in a city park, complete with “an informal get-together complete with free hot dogs and beverages.” According to City Manager Brian Dissette: “The effort is intended to engage community members who may not always be able to attend the regular council meetings.” [Herald Palladium]

St. Simons, Georgia: Glynn County Commissioners are considering a plan for “regulating golf carts on arterial roads on St. Simons Island” including banning them on some roadways altogether. [The Brunswick News]

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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