Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno announced Thursday that the city has reached a settlement in the amount of $650,000 with Columbia Gas and its insurance company over the natural gas explosion centered around Scores Gentleman's Club back in November.
In addition, the Columbia Gas Foundation will provide a grant in the amount of $200,000 to be used toward planning efforts and costs related to urban renewal plans in the affected area.
"The bottom line is we go from a tragic situation no one liked to an opportunity," said Sarno.
Since the Nov. 23 explosion, many businesses have reopened and 15 of the 18 injured are back to work.
"As far as the injuries we have had, 12 of the 14 firefighters that were injured have returned. We still have two that are out with differing injuries and we are working with them to help their recoveries," said Springfield Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant.
But despite the cleanup efforts so far, a significant amount of damage still remains throughout the Entertainment District.
"We want to look at how we are going to recover, the best way to recover and what fits in that area. We are going to be looking at an area beyond the blast," said Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy.
At Thursday's press conference Sarno said the money will go a long way.
"I'm very happy $650,000 of costs have been incurred and they've been recovered and that goes to damages that have occurred, employees, cost, time, etc.," said Sarno.
"It was our job to make it right and that was the first thing and the only thing we had in mind within minutes after the event happened," said Columbia Gas representative Sheila Dorin.
Many city officials, including Conant, say that this money is greatly needed.
"I'm glad that there is some help coming for cost recovery we incurred quite a tremendous cost backfilling all of our members while they were out injured so anything that can help is well appreciated," said Conant.
Officials plan to use the $200,000 grant that has been given to redevelop and rejuvenate the area.
"We're going to have an RFP going out that I'm going to utilize, as I did with the tornado, my Springfield Redevelopment Authority," said Sarno.
Sarno says he'd like to see an innovation district with more market rate housing be built in that area.
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