MADISON — Nearly four months after Madison Paper Industries was scheduled to start using natural gas, the timing for the pipeline to be connected to the anchor business remains unknown, said Summit Natural Gas of Maine officials.
But Summit officials, who will meet with the public during an informational session Thursday night, said some Madison residents can get connected to natural gas by the end of April.
The meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Madison Junior High School auditorium and is open only to Madison residents. Residents who want to heat their homes with natural gas can sign up at the meeting and get information about the pipeline and heating with natural gas.
Madison Paper, one of the town’s largest employers, was originally scheduled to get natural gas by Nov. 1, but there’s no update on when that connection will happen, according to Mike Duguay, director of business development for Summit Natural Gas of Maine.
The gas company is building a $350 million, 68-mile natural gas pipeline from Pittston to Madison that state officials expect to reduce the annual costs of heating for thousands of residents in central Maine.
In December, Summit officials said they were working with Madison Paper, as well as Cony High School and the Capital Area Technical Center in Augusta, which were also was supposed to be hooked up Nov. 1.
Assistant Augusta City Manager Ralph St. Pierre said in December Summit officials said the delay was at least in part because of a dispute between Summit and a now-former contractor Schmid Pipeline Construction Inc., which was also doing work on the project in Norridgewock and Randolph.
He said Summit officials said that contractor had been replaced, work was continuing on the pipeline, and gas should be flowing on or soon after Dec. 15 in Augusta. The company announced in early January that Cony was now getting gas.
At the time, Summit officials predicted there’d be natural gas in Madison by mid-January.
Russ Drechsel, president and chief executive officer of Madison Paper Industries, said in December the company was meeting with Summit officials weekly to discuss the project, but Drechsel said he did not want to comment further on why it hasn’t received natural gas or the specifics of negotiations with Summit.
“I would prefer being on the natural gas pipeline,” Drechsel said at the time. “The cleaner burning, the reliability, the efficiency of it is just so much better. We are anxiously awaiting.”
Duguay said Wednesday that “in a few weeks we’re going to start seeing gas come on in all these communities north of Augusta and we want people to know that they can be on natural gas prior to the winter of 2014.”
“It’s a great opportunity to learn and also save money as soon as possible. These are steps people need to take now in order to get gas for 2014,” said Greg Glynn, a spokesman for Summit. “We want to tell residents what natural gas coming to Madison means, explain the process and explain what you need to do in order to sign up.”
Representatives from Efficiency Maine will also be on hand to explain how to get qualify for energy saving rebates.
Unlike many other fuel sources that are paid for and then delivered, natural gas is paid for based on what is used after it is used, said Duguay. He said the company wants to help people understand what the fuel source is, how it works and incentives such as energy audits and air sealing for homes that customers can get by signing up.
In January residents in Augusta and Gardiner were among the first in Maine to get natural gas as a home heating source. In Madison, distribution lines have been laid in some parts of town, but the company is hoping that Thursday’s meeting can provide them with a better sense of places where natural gas is wanted.
“We have significant plans to build distribution lines in Madison on many different streets. What we’d like to do is explain the timing to people,” said Duguay.
Homes that are on gas lines could get natural gas as soon as April, said Duguay.
Madison Town Manager Dana Berry will be at the meeting, and he said residents interested in getting natural gas should attend.
“It should be an interesting meeting,” Berry said. “The general public should be aware of what natural gas is and this is a chance to have questions answered as well as for Summit to get an idea of how much pipe needs to be laid to deliver gas to homes.”
A second meeting will be held Tuesday at the junior high school for those that cannot attend Thursday’s meeting.
Rachel Ohm— 612-2368 [email protected]