WATERVILLE — A Summit Natural Gas official told city councilors and residents Tuesday night that the company likes to give a two-week notice to residents and property owners that a pipeline will come down their street.
Mike Duguay, business development director for Summit, said the major grid for the pipeline is being built throughout the city with 4- and 8-inch pipes, and 2-inch pipes will branch off that major grid into residential neighborhoods this year, as demand warrants.
Currently, Summit officials are going door-to-door to sign up people who are interested in getting natural gas, fliers are being sent out, and people are calling Summit to express interest in receiving gas.
Councilor Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, asked how someone might contact Summit to say he wants natural gas.
“(Calling) 621-8000 is probably the easiest way,” Duguay said.
Cindy Jacobs, of Cherry Hill Terrace, said she and others on her street already have signed contracts with Summit to receive natural gas and she needs to buy a whole new heating system.
“Will I be getting natural gas this summer?” Jacobs asked.
Duguay said Summit is asking people not to get into a contract with heating, ventilation and air conditioning companies until Summit announces which streets will receive gas lines. If a home’s heat source is taken offline, that would leave someone with no hot water, he said.
He said his best advice is to get a quote and work with an HVAC company to be ready.
Councilor Edward Lachowicz, D-Ward 2, asked how much notice Summit will give that it is putting in a line on a particular street.
“That’s a little bit difficult. It’s not a formula, if you will,” Duguay said. “You understand, it’s a little difficult to time this.”
Duguay said Summit likes to give people a couple of weeks notice.
“It’s just difficult to give an exact date and time we’re going to be coming down the street,” he said.
Jacobs said two weeks is not enough time.
“If there’s any way you can contact people — we all have to hire contractors,” Jacobs said. “They’re busy all summer long.”
She said a lot of people in her neighborhood want natural gas and a lot are putting in new heating systems, as opposed to converting their current systems.
“Anything you can do to help us with this — two weeks isn’t enough time,” she said.
Duguay said the two-week notice doesn’t mean people have only two weeks to get their heating system ready. They have time after that two-week period to get ready for the connection to their homes, he said.
“You, as a homeowner, have a fair amount of time,” he said.
Duguay said Summit is probably a week or two away from finalizing which neighborhoods will receive natural gas this year.
Summit already has major pipe laid on West River Road, from about Thomas College to Franklin and Collette streets and connecting to Kennedy Memorial Drive, where Inland Hospital already is receiving natural gas, Duguay said.
The major grid lines also are scheduled to run along First Rangeway to Mayflower Hill Drive, Gilman Street, Cool and Western Avenue, Elm Street, Spring and Bridge streets, Water, Sherwin and Summer streets.
Pipe has been laid on northern College Avenue, where Huhtamaki already is connected and using natural gas. That pipe connects to Armory Road and continues to the intersection with Main Street, where it turns right and continues to Waterville Commons Drive.
Summit plans also to connect to MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Thayer Center for Health on North Street and may access it through Eustis Parkway or Johnson Heights he said.
The grid, or backbone line, also would include Front Street and allow for businesses downtown to gain access to natural gas from behind Main Street so downtown is not disturbed.
Duguay said it is difficult to predict how much progress will be made at what times, but laying 2-inch pipe in neighborhoods is less time-consuming and requires less equipment than installing 4- and 8-inch lines as part of the larger grid, so the work will be quicker.
He said Summit likes to connect the pipe to the corner of a home closest to the road, to limit liability of pipe on private property.
“We like to stay away from driveway-side service,” he said. “We work with homeowners the best we can to find a corner that is shielded but is as close to the road as (possible),” he said.
Summit provides 300 feet of line to homes and other buildings free of charge, he said.
“It has to be reasonable digging conditions,” he added.
Former Mayor Thomas Nale said he met with Summit officials several times and they have gone through the 12 or 13 buildings he and his family own in Waterville. Summit spent a lot of time with the Nales, asking for information about their energy costs and locations of boilers and burners in basements, he said.
“They realized we pay approximately $100,000 in energy costs a year, and I’m a small player in the city,” Nale said. “They’re going to save me — on paper, and I believe them — $35,000 to $40,000 annually.”
He said he and his family and are thinking about and planning how to spend that $40,000 saving to invest in the city.
“It’s going to be a boon for the city,” Nale said. “It’s going to be excellent.”
He said people have concerns about traffic and other problems with the pipeline construction, but it is best to put up with it as long as is needed.
“The benefits are extraordinary and that’s coming from a small player,” he said.
Mayor Karen Heck and City Manager Michael Roy told Duguay it would be helpful to get updates on when and where pipes will be laid so they can notify the public via the city’s website, through Facebook and by other means.