SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 10, 2014

A rumble before the manhole explosion

BY TOM DALTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — There weren’t a lot of warning signs before the manhole covers blew Tuesday afternoon on Central Street.

Maybe there was one.

Betty Bouchard, co-owner of Trolley Depot, said one of her commercial tenants called to say an electrical box on the wall of an adjoining office was making a lot of noise. After Bouchard checked it out, she called the Fire Department, and a couple of firefighters walked up from headquarters on Derby Street.

Right about then, just when the firefighters were checking the box, the first manhole explosion occurred right outside.

Grid lock

If nothing else, you have to give National Grid credit for sending a lot of troops to the city to try to fix the outage in the downtown. On Wednesday, they had workers going in and out of every manhole along Derby, Front and Central streets.

And did you see those huge portable generators parked outside Trolley Depot and The Essex condominiums on Church Street? National Grid brought them in to supply power to those buildings during the outage.

By the way, those contraptions may be what ISO-New England, the regional grid operator, was talking about when they warned that if the Footprint power plant doesn’t open here in 2016, the region may have to resort to “trailer-mounted diesel generators.”

Of course, the biggest generator here this week was only 1 megawatt, which means they’d have to line up 674 of those trailers to equal the capacity of the proposed Salem plant. Wonder if that convoy of trailers would stretch all the way from John Keenan’s house in North Salem to Lori Ehrlich’s house in Marblehead?

Kim Brady

It was quite the inauguration Monday.

The best lines of the day went to two men of the cloth.

The Rev. Dan Riley, pastor of Salem Catholic Collaborative, who gave the invocation, called Kim Driscoll “the Tom Brady of mayors.”

Rabbi Yossi Lipsker of Chabad of the North Shore, who gave the benediction at the end, called the mayor a “high priestess.” He probably didn’t realize that, in Salem, that title doesn’t carry the same meaning as it does in the Old Testament.

State Sen. Joan Lovely gets the “cruel and unusual punishment” award for attending three inaugurations in the same day in Salem, Beverly and Peabody. Salem Chamber Director Rinus Oosthoek and Peabody Interim Police Chief Bob St. Pierre tied for second with two inaugurations apiece.

There were several nice family moments.

Collins Middle School seventh-grader Nick Angeramo belted out the national anthem, while his proud father, High School Principal Dave Angeramo, watched from the audience.

Animal Control Officer Don Famico saw his daughter, Heather, being sworn in as the new Ward 2 city councilor.

And former Mayor Neil Harrington sat next to his daughter, Grace, chief of staff to state Rep. John Keenan. She was there to represent her boss, who was in Boston cheering on former state representative Marty Walsh, the new mayor of Boston.

Name game

The John Kerry “Manny Ortiz Award” for jumbled jargon was shared by Ward 7 Councilor Joe O’Keefe, who slipped slightly when he referred to Council President Bob McCarthy as “William,” and School Committee member Brendan Walsh, who nominated “Nathaniel Bryant” as vice chairman of the school board, only to be told by Bryant that his name is “Nate” not “Nathaniel.”

First up, William.

O’Keefe, the lovable leprechaun of city government, was probably thinking of McCarthy’s son, William, who was sitting in the audience at Collins Middle School grinning broadly at the mention, or mis-mention, of his name. McCarthy, the new council president, even quoted from his son, who is known as “Will,” in his brief remarks.

As for Nathaniel ...

Although Bryant recoiled in horror at the mention of “Nathaniel,” it turns out that really is his name. That’s what appears on his birth certificate and Social Security card.

Explaining why he corrected Walsh right there on stage in front of a big audience, Bryant said he was simply stunned. “I have not heard someone call me Nathaniel — and I’m not exaggerating — probably in 35 years,” he said.

Hey, in this town, Nathaniel’s not such a bad name.

Counting mayors

Mike Cahill was sworn in Monday as Beverly’s 31st mayor.

Which raises a question: How many mayors has Salem had?

The city manual lists all the modern mayors, but the list only starts in 1916, when the city abandoned two legislative bodies (a board of aldermen and a common council). That list starts with Henry Benson and ends with Driscoll, who would be the 12th mayor according to this count.

But Leverett Saltonstall was the city’s first mayor in 1836. If you count since then, Driscoll is the 50th mayor. There’s an asterisk, however, because some mayors left office and came back and are, thus, counted more than once.

We’ll stop now because we’re getting dizzy.

Honda: the cat

On Wednesday night, Randy Todd was working in a parking garage in the Fenway section of Boston when he and a friend heard what sounded like a kitten crying.

They narrowed their search to one car, a Honda CRV, and looked under it and into it but couldn’t find the cat. They did find the car’s owner, however, who popped the hood only to discover a kitten sitting on the engine block.

Randy, 24, of Lynn, held onto the kitten until his shift was over, put it in his car and dropped it off at the Northeast Animal Shelter on his way home.

Honda, as they now call the kitten, is at the Highland Avenue shelter hoping to get adopted.

Firefighters to the rescue

John and Judy Driscoll decided to move to Salem after John contracted ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. They needed to renovate their home to meet John’s needs. They also needed all eight rooms painted — so they contacted the Muscular Dystrophy Association for help.

The MDA reached out to Salem Firefighters Local 172.

Salem fire Capt. John Monahan and firefighter Patrick Burke put together a team of firefighters from Salem and Marblehead who worked in shifts for two weeks and had the house ready by the start of the year. Burke even arranged to have paint and supplies donated by Waters & Brown and Home Depot.

“Firefighters are American heroes who make such a difference for the people and families we serve,” said MDA area director Vanessa Malfitano.

Winter Island talk

The Mack Park Neighborhood Association turns its attention across town on Tuesday for its monthly meeting at Moose Family Center on Grove Street.

John Hayes, a Ward 6 resident and former U.S. Navy Seabee, will discuss the 1983 rebuilding of the Winter Island lighthouse in a 7 p.m. presentation.

Don’t forget the bib — refreshments served at 6:30 p.m.

Film Fest

A couple of filmmakers from New York are in town this weekend to shoot footage for the “Salem Sketches” short films shown before the main films at the annual documentary film festival at CinemaSalem.

They will be at Red’s on Sunday.

Other filmmakers have already shot a segment at Rich Gagnon’s shoe shop and another at the St. James bingo night.

This year’s festival is March 6 to 13.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.