Editor, Townsman:

As Andover’s Police Chief and Emergency Management Director, it was my honor to help lead the response to the Sept. 13 gas explosions.  Andover’s first-responders acted with bravery and skill to limit the damage done by the explosions. And Andover’s residents showed compassion during a time of unpredictable and frightening events.

My focus is now on preparing for the next emergency. The settlement agreement with Columbia Gas provides limited but meaningful resources to prepare for the unknown challenges that await us. 

Using the dollars not allocated for road and sidewalk restoration, Andover can strengthen its emergency preparedness in important ways. 

-- Replace trees that are susceptible to falling on electrical wires during heavy winds or wet snows with healthy trees that will not pose a threat.

-- Enhance the Senior Center renovation, improving the facility that houses, warms, and feeds residents during emergencies by installing showers and sufficient refrigeration.

-- Build showers in the town facilities at Pomps Pond that are superior to the costly trailers relied upon during the fall and winter. 

-- Fund improvements to expand parking and pedestrian walkways in the downtown, The Park outside Town Offices, the playstead (i.e., the playing fields behind Doherty Middle School and the Youth Center), and the municipal complex (i.e., the Town Offices, Senior Center, Youth Center, and Doherty Middle School).

In times of emergency, many residents visit the downtown to avail themselves of municipal services, patronize our local businesses, and connect with community. To accommodate this influx of residents in the central hub of the community, we need to enhance our parking and pedestrian walkways and ensure ADA compliance. Further, by installing turf into this area, we will facilitate the placement of heavy police, fire, public works, communications, and utility trucks necessary during emergency responses.

-- Finally, fund the design of improvements to the intersection of Route 133 and 28. The events of Sept. 13 illustrated that this key corridor and junction must be improved to accommodate the heavy traffic we saw during the gas evacuations.

Andover was able to respond effectively to the gas explosions because the community had historically made responsible investments in its public safety system. I respectfully request that Town Meeting continue this tradition of investment.

Patrick Keefe

Chief of Police 

Director of Emergency Management  

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