School Committee firing Superintendent Mastrocola

9 Jun

JoeBy Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Just when we thought that it was safe to say that dysfunction was leaving the traditionally dysfunctional Peabody School Committee, along comes this news in what is a lame duck year for some of that board’s longer term members:

According to our sources, the School Committee is firing Superintendent Joe Mastrocola. Immediately, the Eye has learned.

Why? Well, it appears that the school chief wasn’t always willing to be a go along to get along with the mercurial members of the board. I mean, what a nerve! After all, who cares about all of the man’s degrees in education? Pastry chefs, salesmen and a pre-school babysitters know best.

Who cares that dropout rates are down and test scores are up since Mr. Mastocola took over the system? There are more important issues out there that he should focus on, like inconveniencing seniors by forcing voting to be moved from schools for no good reason, or forcing homeowners near schools to shovel their sidewalks to the Canadian border.

If there was a problem with Mr. Mastrocola’s performance, then why did this same group of elected officials  give this guy a raise last year? And now … we’re going to have to pay Mastrocola the remaining year of his contract.

Joe can sit by the pool and relax while he earns $83 an hour of taxpayer money through next June. Meanwhile, Peabody will have to pay a similar salary to hire an interim superintendent. Real great use of taxpayer money. And you want to look after our hard-earned tax dollars as a city councilor? More to come on this, I’m sure.

Choosing a way to serve my community without running for elective office

27 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

IKMstopt’s been ingrained in me forever that community service is the highest of all American callings. I’ve always believed that each of us has a duty, an obligation really, to give as much as we take, and to act locally to make our own communities great places to live, not only for our friends and families, but for our neighbors too.

It’s a concept on which our nation was founded, handed down to us by men and women who courageously united 239 years ago to create the greatest free republic in the history of the world.

But I’ve also learned along the way that public service isn’t only about serving as an elected official. There’s a lot to do, after all, even for those who don’t choose to win popular support through a ballot box.

So it’s with that in mind that I announce that my form of public service for the immediate future, will be to serve as chair of a newly formed grassroots group called Peabody Citizens United, which is currently leading thousands of Peabody residents in opposing an unnecessary and potentially dangerous natural gas pipeline planned for our community.

I won’t seek any elected office this fall, choosing instead to work with my friends, family and neighbors to do what we can to keep the Kinder Morgan pipeline from forever damaging quality of life in Peabody. I’m letting people know, since I’ve been asked dozens of times these past two months about whether I’d run again this year for Ward 5 Councilor.

I hope you will join us now in our pipeline fight, since we need all the help we can get in keeping this Houston-based energy company from endangering Peabody homes, destroying our bike path, killing wildlife, and potentially endangering our water supply.

As for my future politically, it’ll be a case of one battle at a time. For now, that means:

Stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline!

Article 97 could be key to stopping pipeline in Peabody, and across the state

22 Apr

Want to get updates on our efforts in Peabody to stop the Kinder Morgan gas pipeline? Please like our Facebook page.

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Less than a week into Peabody’s fight to keep a 36-inch, high-pressure natural gas line from slashing through our community and intruding on our quality of life, we may have found a way to keep Kinder Morgan from marching to the sea.

In fact, Peabody might even be ground zero for a fire wall that could make the energy giant think twice about disrupting any Massachusetts cities and towns with a project that is of no benefit to the Commonwealth.

Beacon Hill could be the key to stopping the gas pipeline in Peabody, and across the Commonwealth

Beacon Hill could be the key to stopping the gas pipeline in Peabody, and across the Commonwealth

It’s called Article 97, aka the Public Lands Protection Act, and it is a part of the Massachusetts State Constitution. We the people approved it with our votes in 1972, and you can read more about the amendment here.

But here is the gist of it:

“Article 97 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution requires that lands or easements taken or acquired for natural resources purposes are not to be used for other purposes or disposed of without a two-thirds vote of each branch of the legislature.”

The proposed route of the current Kinder Morgan pipeline through Peabody not only runs through land that was set aside for conservation, and includes the Ipswich River Watershed, but also right through the Independence Greenway (aka, the bikeway). Peabody used $3.5 million to build its section of the bikeway, of which a large chunk of money came from funds set aside for development of conservation lands.

It’s become clear to us that in order for Kinder Morgan to run its project through the bikeway area, it will need the Massachusetts State Legislature to dispose of Article 97 protection in this area.

But there’s more to this than just protecting the residents of Peabody. Kinder Morgan’s ultimate goal is to run its pipeline to the sea, where it can then ship most of this natural gas to overseas markets, primarily in Europe, while making an even more obscene profit.

It’s expected that it will be easier for them – with the help of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – to take land by eminent domain in areas where there is more wide-open space, and fewer people to protest, namely in western and central Mass.

KM sees a problem, though, as it heads further east, into the more congested population areas. If it doesn’t go through conservation land in eastern Mass., the company has few alternatives. It would, after all, likely be cost-prohibitive for the company to re-route and take hundreds of homes by eminent domain, and face the wrath of what would be an even more vehement public outcry.

This is why Peabody’s fight needs to be shared by affected communities across the Commonwealth. If we can keep two-thirds of our state legislators from saying yes to granting an Article 97 waiver in the Ipswich River Watershed area, then Kinder Morgan might even be forced to abandon its plan to slash through Mass. with its destructive pipeline.

It’s time to get our state reps and our state senators involved and on our side all across the state.

Peabody can be our firewall. But it will take a united effort of groups who fight everywhere to get this done.

Pipeline might cut through West Peabody neighborhood

20 Apr
Birch

Map above shows where the Tennessee Gas Company sub-station is located in relation to Lowell and Birch Streets, and several West Peabody homes.

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Our original impression was that expansion of the Northeast Direct (NED) high-pressure gas line into Peabody affected the Independence Greenway (aka the bikeway), and some homes in the Glen Drive neighborhood.

But new information is now emerging that leads us to surmise that the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, a division to energy giant Kinder Morgan, might have designs on an even more expansive, and potentially dangerous project in West Peabody.

The Eye has learned that, in addition to slashing through the bikeway with a new high-pressure line as part of its almost 300-mile NED project, Kinder Morgan is looking for ways to connect the new line with an existing sub-station at the intersection of Birch and Lowell Streets (see map above).

What that would mean is a project that would potentially affect hundreds of homes in what is a highly crowded residential area between Russell and that section of Lowell Street.

Looking beyond this map, the most-direct route for connecting the pipeline to the substation would be to have a pipeline come up Birch Street, passing not only hundreds of homes, but also the Burke Elementary School.

We’re still doing some fact finding here, so please stay tuned to this space, or like the Peabody Citizens United Facebook page to keep on top of the latest information.

Kinder Morgan has horrible safety record when it comes to pipeline construction

18 Apr

Please like our Facebook page, which has been set up to give you info on the pipeline project that threatens Peabody.

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Here's what a Kinder Morgan pipeline project looks like

A Kinder Morgan gas line marker stands next to the bikeway near the site of the new line

If destroying the pristine beauty of Peabody’s Independence Greenway (aka the bikeway) wasn’t enough of a concern to oppose a pending gas pipeline project by Texas energy giant Kinder Morgan, the company’s safety record should be an eye-opener for residents who own homes along the proposed route.

This obscenely profitable energy company says it will build a pipeline cutting through the bikeway over the span of two years, ending in 2018, and that there’s nothing Peabody can do to stop them.

After KM applied to snake a new pipeline through Southern, NH, as part of the same project here in Peabody, the Manchester Union Leader newspaper reported that the company has a tattered safety record dating back to 2003.

Here’s what the Union Leader recently reported from reports filed by the National Transportation Safety Bureau. As you read these, keep in mind that there are several hundred Peabody homes within 200 yards of the proposed site of the new pipeline:

August 2003: Kinder Morgan 26-inch diameter natural gas pipeline exploded in a farming area in Caddo County, Okla., throwing a 54-foot long section of pipe 30 feet from the ditch.

May 2005: Kinder Morgan 30-inch diameter natural gas pipeline exploded near Marshall, Texas, sending a giant fireball into the sky and hurling a 160-foot section of pipe onto the grounds of an electric power generating plant. Two people were hurt, 40 evacuated.

July 2006: Kinder Morgan Tennessee Gas pipeline exploded near Campbellsville, Ky., blowing a 25-foot chunk of pipe out of the ground and sending it 200 feet away.

September 2008: Kinder Morgan gas pipeline manifold exploded and burned for more than 10 hours in Pasadena, Texas, injuring one employee. The Houston Chronicle reported the blaze “could be seen for miles.”

August 2011: A flash fire at a Kinder Morgan gas pipeline south of Herscher, Ill., sent five employees to the hospital.

November 2011: A weld failed on a 36-inch diameter Kinder Morgan Tennessee Gas Pipeline near Glouster, Ohio, leading to an explosion that caused a blast crater 30 feet across and 15 feet deep. Three homes were destroyed by the fire.

June 2012: A 26-inch Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline failed in Gray County, Texas, blowing a crater 30 feet in diameter, burning two acres of agricultural land and closing State Highway 152 for several hours.

June 2013: in Louisiana, a 30-inch diameter Kinder Morgan pipeline ruptured and exploded in a rural area of Washington Parish. No one was seriously hurt, but 55 homes were evacuated.

It’s becoming more and more apparent that it’s time to push back and oppose this company, which is coming to Peabody to offer us nothing but headaches, and is threatening our quality of life with a project designed only to make Kinder Morgan more profits.

Giant energy company to Peabody: We’re building this pipeline, and you can’t stop us

18 Apr

If you haven’t already done so, please like and share our Facebook page. We’re just getting started with this. 

Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It may very well be time to organize public opposition to a proposed gas pipeline, whose construction will tear up a delicate wildlife area, put out of commission a popular recreation area, and threaten the property rights of Peabody homeowners.

More information is surfacing on the plans of Kinder Morgan, a giant energy company — which recently reported a profit of $469 million — to push through with a new pipeline in West Peabody.

pipe

This is what a Kinder Morgan pipeline project looks like

Thanks to one of our faithful sources for sending me the notes from the March 11th meeting of the Peabody Conservation Commission, where ConCom Vice Chair Michael Rizzo revealed the Kinder Morgan plans. Rizzo also told the commission that Kinder Morgan has filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a permit that might allow them to take this land belonging to Peabody by eminent domain.

In other words, Kinder Morgan is saying to Peabody, we’re building this pipeline and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Earlier in this space, it was reported that the plan was to replace an existing gas pipeline over an existing right of way under some high tension wires. That would have meant that the natural gas line would run alongside the Independence Greenway (bikeway), crossing the bikeway three times before changing its route. Under that scenario, it appeared that only a 0.5-mile portion of the bikeway would have been torn up over a two-year period starting next year.

But now, looking at Vice Chair Rizzo’s comments at the last ConCom meeting, it appears that this is not a replacement line, but rather a totally new gas line that would follow the entire West Peabody stretch of the bikeway, tearing it up and closing it down through 2018. If this is true, the new gas line will also pass even closer to more homes, causing potential and continuous disruption and noise for two years. The negative impact on the wildlife, which includes deer, many species of birds and aquatic life in that area would be devastating.

“I heard they are running it down the bike path. That troubles me for two reasons. We just built the bike path. We received 3 1/2 million dollars to build a bike path, and now they are going to put a gas line through it. Not only does it disrupt the bike path, it puts it out of service. It will take away our open space and our resource,” Rizzo said during the ConCom meeting.

That sounds to me like the federal government run amok to help yet another huge energy company make even more obscene profits to the detriment of citizen quality of life.

“Part of my concern is that first of all, we have public money that was used. Through CPC we paid for the engineering design. Through MASSDOT we used state, federal and public money to build the bike path to have another company come through and dig it up,” Rizzo said.

My question at this point is when are we the people going to hear something more official on this project? Thanks to Mr. Rizzo for bringing this up at a ConCom meeting. Otherwise, we might have never even known about it until after Kinder Morgan started digging up and devastating the area.

At this point we need to hear from our elected officials and our Mayor. At this point, Kinder Morgan has some explaining to do by way of an open public meeting in Peabody. And at this point, citizens need to unite and fight back.

More info on gas pipeline, but many questions still remain

16 Apr

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Since we first reported yesterday on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s plans to upgrade/replace its Northeast Direct Lines that run through the Independence Greenway (Peabody’s bikeway), more details have emerged.

pipeline

A maker for the Tennessee Gas Company pipeline stands adjacent to the bikeway

But there still remain a number of questions, and we wonder when Kinder Morgan, parent company of Tennessee Gas, will come to Peabody to meet with residents.  This project, which would begin next year, could close down this stretch of bikeway and cause headaches for neighbors through 2018.

The following observations are from how this project might affect the 1.8-mile stretch of bikeway between the Middleton line and Russell Street. I still have no information on how this affects other areas of Peabody:

  • The current gas pipeline crosses this stretch of the bikeway in three spots, and at times runs parallel and within 100 to 300 yards of hundreds of West Peabody homes. The homes don’t seem to be close enough to be directly impacted, but questions remain about disruption from construction noise. Keep in mind that these are residents who are already battling noise from blasting at the nearby Aggregate Industries quarry. Will there be blasting with the pipeline project? (By the way as I just wrote that line, my home shook from a blast a mile away at the quarry).
  • If this project will only take place along the current right away, which follows the high tension wires, there doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason for shutting down the first mile of the bikeway coming from Russell Street, or the final half mile to the Middleton border. If they’re not expanding or adding a new line, only a half-mile stretch of the bikeway should be affected. But I also continue to hear, from reliable sources, that Kinder Morgan will attempt to shut down the entire stretch between Russell and the Middleton line.
  • Most of the current pipeline winds through wetlands, and what is a pristine setting for plants and wildlife. What affect will construction have on this delicate ecosystem?
  • If the new pipeline follows the current route, the project won’t come near Crystal Lake, where dredging is set to begin later this year. If it follows the current route, the bikeway from Ross Park to a mile past Russell Street should see no disruption. But what affect will two major construction projects, less than a mile from each other, have on traffic and noise in that part of West Peabody?

Even with all of this new information, a lot of questions still remain. For example, we don’t know the following:

  • Is this just a replacement pipe that will follow the same route, or are they expanding and affecting other areas when it comes to the bikeway and adjacent homes?
  • Is Kinder Morgan replacing the existing pipe for safety reasons, or is it simply so that company can make even more profit? If it’s the latter, the residents of Peabody have a right to oppose it, since this will effect property and what is a pristine natural environment.
  • How much, if any, will Peabody benefit from this project? Kinder Morgan needs to offer the taxpayers compensation for the disruption it’s likely to cause with this project. I would expect that the Mayor and every City Councilor would stand with residents in opposition, should this simply be of no benefit to Peabody.

At the end of the day, this isn’t just about the bikeway and those who use it. It’s about resident quality of life, which continues to be threatened all over Peabody because of greedy developers and large corporations like this one.

It’s time that Kinder Morgan talked to residents. Let’s all hope that they’re not delaying on that meeting so that – when that meeting finally occurs – it’s too late for residents to oppose this project.

Pipeline would cause neighborhood disruption, put bike way out of commission

15 Apr

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The new gas pipeline will put the bike path out of commission for almost two years

The new gas pipeline will put the bike path out of commission for almost two years

Details of this are just emerging, but The Eye has learned that the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company plans next year to upgrade/replace its Northeast Energy Direct Lines, which run straight through Peabody.

This will not only cause disruption in Peabody’s neighborhoods, but also put the Independence Greeway (aka the bike path) out of commission for almost two years. The replacement gas line will follow the current one, which is under the bike path, but also close to many residential neighborhoods.

There also could be a negative impact on what is a fairly pristine environment along the bikeway.

The project will start at the Middleton line, and work it’s way toward Crystal Lake.

If any of our readers have more information, please share in the comments section.

Stay tuned her for more details as they emerge, but this definitely looks like a project that will have a negative effect on quality of life for a long time to come.

It’s the small things that add up to create quality of life for Peabody’s residents

9 Apr

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

We at Eye On Peabody often find ourselves pointing it out when elected officials don’t act in the best interests of the taxpayers. So today, I’m very happy to report on an elected official who seemingly always does the right thing.

It’s a small example of what it means to be an effective Peabody ward city councilor. But all of these small examples eventually add up into one giant, and necessary thing we call quality of life.

Barry Sinewitz

Barry Sinewitz

Just a few hours after being called yesterday on what many would consider a small quality of life issue on the Independence Bikeway between Russell Street and the Middleton line, Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz again did his job for those he represents.

Resident calls and informs that there’s a potential safety issue for those who use the bikeway. Councilor Sinewitz immediately reaches out to the Department of Public Services, and has a giant fallen tree removed from the bikeway. Here today, gone in a few hours (See the photos below).

Sinewitz, to his credit, is not only the most-independent member of Peabody’s City Council, he also recognizes that doing the job of ward councilor means understanding that there are no quality of life issue are too small for his attention. Removing that tree from the bikeway or fixing a giant pothole in front of someone’s home, are just as important to him as the dredging and beautification of Crystal Lake, or standing by the neighbors in their ongoing tussles with the Aggregate Industries quarry.

Sinewitz’ approach to being a public servant is refreshing. I only wish the ward in which I live – Ward 5 – had a councilor who cared more about resident quality of life than he does about the needs of greedy Route 1 developers.

treeIMG

No vacancy sign is up already at the new Peabody ‘hotel’

24 Mar

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The land that time forgot (aka Peabody Square) now may be getting a makeover that has zero chance of revitalizing that maligned downtown stretch of our fair berg.

No room at the inn?

No rooms at the inn?

Remember that swanky “boutique” hotel we all got excited about when we heard it was coming to the corner of Main and Foster in the O’Shea Building? Well, The Eye has learned that the owner of that property wants to change his plans, and now join the housing unit developer pig fest instead. Word on the street is that Middleton­-based firm Bandar Development & Builders are abandoning their plan for a hotel, and instead, are hoping to develop . . . Wait for it . . . Several dozen apartments! Geez, usually, they build a hotel in an economically challenged area, wait for it to fail, and then convert it to low-income housing. But in this case, we might be cutting out that first stage. The beautiful boutique hotel, perhaps with a nice restaurant, which might have actually given people at least one reason to visit Peabody’s downtown? It’s likely gone through sleight of hand while yet another developer cashes in and Peabody Square gets no better when it comes to revitalization. After all, we’ve been building thousands of apartment’s downtown for years now, and what has it gotten us? A few more barber and beauty shops. A couple of new liquor stores. And a scene that makes downtown Lawrence seem like Venice by comparison. But this tale of presto chango has another little sidelight. First off, it appears that – since the zoning is right – changing now from a hotel to apartments won’t require the developer to go before the Peabody City Council. And . . . guess which developer owns the rights to that mysterious plan for building what the Mayor called a future “multi-use” development across from the disappearing hotel? That’s right, Bander has won the right to also develop what is currently the city-owned parking lot on Foster and Main. The city says it’ll be mixed-use with apartments on top and trendy shops and restaurants down below. But who knows what we’ll get considering Bander’s sudden 180 on the disappearing hotel. Maybe Bander will build a roller coaster instead! None of this, of course, is funny if you’re a Peabody taxpayer. We continue to have no serious, comprehensive plan for downtown revitalization, and that’s tragic. I was reminded again this past Saturday night after spending some time in Salem, which even on a cold, windy early spring night was teeming with activity when it came to its shops, bars and restaurants. After enjoying what Mayor Kim Driscoll and the Salem City Council had managed to build, it was a sad ride back home through Peabody Square. While Salem was bustling, downtown Peabody was a ghost town at 9:30 p.m. Even the “beautiful” barber shops were closed.

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