State Officials Rule Out Ward Hill Building as Emergency Shelter for Disaster Victims

A building at 55 Foundation Ave., in the Ward Hill Business Park, was considered for an emergency shelter for North Andover residents displaced by the Columbia Gas disaster. (WHAV News photograph.)

A Ward Hill industrial building, considered as a possible emergency shelter for North Andover residents displaced by the recent natural gas-related fires and explosions, has been ruled out for now by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Haverhill officials scrambled last week to make a preliminary assessment of the building at 55 Foundation Ave. Health and Inspectional Services Director Richard MacDonald told WHAV the building, now housing 3M, Columbia Gas other businesses, would have provided warm showers, toilets and beds for North Andover residents. The contingency might have become necessary in the event replacement of Columbia Gas lines is not completed before cold temperatures set in. However, Christopher Besse, MEMA’s public information officer, said officials decided the space is not needed.

“There are no plans at this point. We’ve lined up trailers and hotel rooms,” Besse told WHAV.

Haverhill Fire Chief William F. Laliberty said the first-floor space considered is only a warehouse and there were concerns how it could be properly fitted for habitation.

MEMA and North Andover officials are working with SLS of Galveston, Texas, on emergency shelter planning.

The Foundation Avenue building is owned by Riverway Realty Trust, operated by trustees Antonio Moda and Stephen Galinsky.

Columbia Gas reports 18 of the nearly 50 miles of affected pipe have been replaced as of Sunday. A total of 877 service lines in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence have been replaced.