Businesses Still Struggle To Bounce Back From Columbia Gas Explosions After Nearly A Year
by Quincy Walters, WBUR
Nearly a year after the deadly gas explosions in northern Massachusetts, one-third of affected businesses are not operating like they were before the disaster.
At a press conference held in front of a North Andover boutique gift shop Tuesday, officials from the towns of Andover, North Andover and Lawrence acknowledged the work that needs to be done. Making sure infrastructure is sound so a disaster like this doesn't happen again; finding a way for businesses to weather at least one month if they have to close, should a disaster like this happen again; and increasing accountability of public utility companies are all on the list.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera empathized with those who haven't had a helpful experience with the utility's claims process.
"Let’s be honest about it," he said. "The claims process is not being handled by people whose best interests are the businesses; their best interest is Columbia Gas.”
But officials spent a good portion of time highlighting "resiliency" and "hope," and the fact that 70% of the 900 affected businesses are now operating as they did before the explosions.
"This [press conference] seems all very sad," said Rivera. "Can somebody put on music? This awful thing happened to us, but this effort that we're doing is to bring people back."
The effort: a newly-launched campaign called "Rock The Register," which aims to reinvigorate businesses in the Merrimack Valley. Despite many businesses operating normally, a lot of customers have found alternatives to their former go-to restaurants and shops while they were shuttered for months during the recovery.