Orion Township officials demand to meet with Consumers Energy about gas main explosion, fire

By Jim Newell

Review Editor

“Where were you on Nov. 20 at about 9:45 p.m.?” Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett asked during the board meeting on Monday.

Barnett was referring to the explosion and fire after a 22-inch gas main ruptured off Brown Road, a potentially catastrophic incident that could be heard and seen for miles around Orion Township.

On Monday, the township board of trustees publicly thanked the first responders who battled the fire, shut down roads in the area and evacuated some homeowners and businesses as a precaution.

“We want to thank the people that, when bad things happen, they run toward it,” Barnett said.

Barnett also said township officials demanded to meet next week with the president and vice-president of Consumers Energy to get answers about the future safety of the area and gas mains.

“Thankfully, this happened in an area where there wasn’t any homes or businesses,” he said.

“I’m so proud of our first responders. It was so amazing how you jumped into action,” said Clerk Penny Shults. “I’m so thankful that no one was hurt. You all did a phenomenal job. It’s nothing short of a miracle that no one was hurt. So thank you. You’re our heroes.”

Captain Eric Florence of the Orion Township Fire Department was first on the scene. The township fire department and Oakland County Sheriff’s Office – Orion Substation deputies secured the area.

“It took a whole team. A lot of firefighters and sheriff’s deputies,” said Lt. Dan Toth, commander of the OCSO Orion substation.

The Auburn Hills Police Department, sheriff’s deputies, and firefighters from Auburn Hills, Waterford, Oxford, Oakland Township, Independence Township and Brandon Township provided aid.

Barnett also praised the action of township officials, singling out Toth, Orion Township Fire Chief John Pender and township Operations Director Jeff Stout for jumping into action and controlling the situation and flow of information. “They worked flawlessly,” he said.

Also at the meeting:

The board voted 5-1 to approve Grant Fodor of Edward Jones Financial Advisors as the township’s pension plan administrator. Trustee John Steimel was the lone nay vote. Trustee Ron Sliwinski was absent from the meeting, with notice. “This isn’t a decision that was made very quickly. It’s been made with a lot of research and thought by me, Clerk Shults and Treasurer (Donni) Steele,” Barnett said.

Board members said employees pensions would not be affected by the switch and it would be an advantage to have a local administrator to answer questions. The current plan administrator is in Grand Rapids.

The board unanimously approved a request to allow Barnett and his staff to enter into negotiations with Tower Company and Verizon to install a 160-foot cell phone tower at Fire Station #2, 3801 Giddings Rd. The township would be compensated for allowing the tower installation. See next week’s Lake Orion Review for the story on the proposal.


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