WINSLOW — The Town Council took a brief tour of the newly improved police station before its regular meeting Monday. Later, the council tabled a resolution to extend the deadline for a continuing construction project within the Town Office and also listened to a presentation about a proposed pipeline from a representative Summit Natural Gas Inc.
Police Chief Jeffrey Fenlason led the tour of the gleaming station, which is nearly double its original size. The $734,000 project included a new addition and complete renovation of the station’s old space in the Town Office basement.
Improvements to the station include a single-vehicle sally port, a booking room with video recording equipment, an interview room and a training room.
Major construction ended last week, and police began reclaiming the space Thursday. Fenlason said the department is out of its temporary quarters in the fire station and will be settled in by the end of this week.
Town Manager Michael Heavener, who is also a former Winslow police chief, spelled out the differences between the old facility and the new. In the past, officers would lead detainees — some of whom were combative — through the front door, past several offices down a narrow corridor. Now police bring detainees through the sally port — a garage — which leads directly into the booking room without ever crossing paths with personnel or the public.
The department has made three arrests since moving into the new space and the layout is much safer for police, personnel and the community, said Sgt. Haley Fleming.
Council chairman Gerald Saint Amand said he is pleased with the finished station.
“This was long overdue,” he said. “Before, it was too crowded, too unsafe. This is a night-and-day difference.”
In July, the Police Department moved out of its home of 30 years and into the fire station to allow the project to get under way. Construction of the addition’s foundation began in mid-July, but a few weeks later the state issued stop-work orders because the contractor hadn’t applied for a building permit from the state fire marshal.
Then, after reviewing the plans, the fire marshal required the town to include upgrades to the police station and the attached Town Office to comply with the Life Safety Code and Americans with Disabilities Act.
The construction site was idle for more than nine weeks, from August to October, while the builder, the architect and the State Fire Marshal’s Office revised the blueprints to satisfy code requirements, which added $165,000 to the project.
After the tour of the police station, the Town Council voted 7-0 to table a resolution that would have granted a four-day extension to Peachey Builders for ongoing construction elsewhere in the building. In October, the council added a stipulation to its contract with Peachey Builders that allows the town to charge the company $1,000 for every day the project extends beyond the scheduled completion date of Jan. 14. The construction company has said it can complete the work by Jan. 19.
Councilor Ken Fletcher, who asked the council to table the resolution, said he would prefer more time to study the issue. The council unanimously agreed.
Presentation by Summit Gas
A natural gas distribution company made its pitch to provide natural gas to central Maine — the second presentation by a gas utility in the past two months.
In December, the council heard a similar presentation from rival company Maine Natural Gas. Both presentations were strictly informational, and the council will take no votes on the subject, Heavener has said.
Michael Duguay, director of business development for Summit, said the company plans to install 66 miles of pipeline and up to 1,000 miles of distribution lines throughout the region. The project would require a $210 million capital investment during the first four years and an initial construction period of 48 months, beginning this spring. The project potentially could serve 52,000 residential and commercial customers.
Installation of the main pipeline will begin this spring and be completed by the end of the year, Duguay said. Installation of distribution lines could take longer.
Duguay said at current prices, the average residential oil customer spends $3,240 per year, while gas customers would pay an estimated $1,540 — a savings of $1,690. Residential distribution lines would serve 17 area communities, including Winslow. A map of the proposed project in Winslow shows gas service extending to about 90 percent of residential buildings.
The company is owned by Infrastructure Investments Fund, a private equity fund advised by JP Morgan Asset Management, and has a presence in Colorado and Missouri. A pipeline in the Kennebec River valley would be the company’s first toehold in Maine.
Representatives from Summit are in talks with industrial customers such as Sappi Fine Paper in Skowhegan. Commitments from industrial customers is key to making the pipeline financially viable, Duguay said.
Last week, the state authorized Summit to begin construction of pipelines that could provide natural gas service to Albion, Augusta, Belgrade, China, Fairfield, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Madison, Norridgewock, Oakland, Richmond, Sidney, Skowhegan, Waterville, Windsor and Winslow. Summit’s proposed natural gas pipeline will run from an existing connection in Windsor to Augusta and throughout the region.
Summit is competing with Maine Natural Gas to supply natural gas to many of the same communities. Maine is one of the few states that allows natural gas companies to run side-by-side pipelines and serve the same region, Duguay said.
Last year, Maine Natural Gas received the state’s approval to operate in Maine and has started laying a supply line to the new MaineGeneral Medical Center regional hospital, under construction in north Augusta. The company also had won a bid to bring a gas pipeline to state facilities in Augusta; however, that award was thrown out by an appeals panel because the state’s decision-making process was found to be flawed. Maine Natural Gas has since filed a lawsuit.
Ben McCanna — 861-9239