Progress being made in response to explosion

Published 9:18 am Friday, May 27, 2022

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Franklin City Manager Amanda C. Jarratt provided an update during the Monday, May 23, City Council meeting on the work being done in response to the April 15 explosion in Berkley Court, including highlighting that the investigation into the cause of the explosion by all the necessary organizations was in full swing as of Monday.

Amanda C. Jarratt

On the night of April 15, there was an explosion in a duplex on Cameron Street that resulted in the death of Michael Wiggins and critical injuries to a female victim. The preliminary investigation indicates it was a propane explosion.

Jarratt opened her update May 23 by stating that she had spoken with the owners of the Berkley Court Apartment Complex earlier that day. 

“The electrical contractor has filed for their business license, and they have applied for permits for the electrical portion of the work that will have to be done,” she said. “Their mechanical contractor anticipates coming in to start filing for permits tomorrow.”

She said they will start some of the pre-work this Wednesday on the electrical side and then start next Tuesday on the mechanical side. 

“You will see a dumpster on Cameron Street and a storage unit, and that’s for the amount of construction debris that will have to be removed from the apartments that are impacted by the construction,” she said. “They’re trying to tackle the apartments that have individuals in hotels and children first so that they can have them back in their apartments sooner than later to lessen the impact to especially those children that are not in their homes and having to be transported to school.”

Tamara Sterling

Franklin City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tamara Sterling shared during the Thursday, May 19, Franklin City School Board meeting what the division was doing to help its students who are from Berkley Court.

“FCPS currently provides transportation to any displaced students, and we have students as far as Suffolk, but we make certain that we go out, we nurture and support our children, and we bring them back in,” she said. “We also have made contact with numerous families in regards to anything that they need that we can support them with because, again, we are the community, we serve our students, and we want to make certain that we provide any type of social, emotional support.”

She said FCPS counselors are aware of the children that have been affected by the explosion and its impact on the community.

“I just wanted to make certain that the board knows that we are extending ourselves for the children of Berkley Court,” Sterling said.

In the May 23 council meeting, Jarratt concluded her update by saying, “The investigation by the numerous parties into the cause did start today. We’re not a party to that, but it did start today, so we’re thankful that progress is finally in full swing there.”

Gregory McLemore

Ward 3 Councilman Gregory McLemore noted that a portion of Berkley is in his ward and that he wanted to attend an upcoming meeting between Berkley Court management and the city. He wanted to know why he had not been informed with regard to meetings and correspondence so that he could, in turn, inform his constituents there.

“No one’s been left out of the loop,” Jarratt replied. “They do a written communication to their residents. I’ve made the request on your and council’s behalf to the owner to have a meeting for the residents and for council to be able to attend. I made that request again today.”

She said the owners have indicated that now they feel like they finally have something to say.

“They were laser-focused on getting the construction process started,” she said. “When I spoke to Mr. Sterling today, he said he would like to make arrangements to have that meeting one day next week. I don’t have those details yet, but I have been continually making that request to the owner.”

“OK,” McLemore said. “Has anybody addressed the question of the infrastructure from the pole to the facility, to the projects?”

“Bay Electric is the electricians that have been hired to conduct the work, and they are filing for all the permits and doing all the analysis required to ensure the safe transition from hot water heaters powered by propane to now electric,” Jarratt said.

Later in the council meeting, McLemore asked about the public shower trailers placed on-site in Berkley for use while Berkley Court area residents remain without hot water due to the propane being turned off. He said he understood these public showers would be cleaned after each use, and he asked Jarratt if the city knows if the people responsible for performing that cleaning duty are actually doing it.

“As I understand they are,” Jarratt said. “The usage has been very limited.”

McLemore then noted that there are only two maintenance people working the entire complex.

“For the general public, it’s difficult for two people to do a whole lot,” he said.