AUGUSTA — Mayfair neighborhood residents have been hesitant to commit to converting to natural gas despite a push by one of two gas companies installing lines in Augusta that will allow lines to several streets in the neighborhood.
Peter Bottomley, sales and marketing manager for Brunswick-based Maine Natural Gas, said the company has installed gas lines on several streets in Mayfair already this spring, but only five out of 123 potential customers in the neighborhood have signed on to convert to the fuel.
Speaking at a neighborhood meeting Thursday, Bottomley said reasons residents in the neighborhood have been slow to convert include concern prices for the gas will increase after homes are converted, the cost of converting boilers, fears about gas safety and homeowners’ loyalty to their current fuel providers.
Bottomley said the company will work for about another week in the neighborhood this summer, then move on to other projects, before potentially coming back for more.
Residents, and anyone else passing through Mayfair, are expected to see an abundance of natural gas and water line installations under the tightly packed residential neighborhood’s streets, as well as sidewalk reconstruction and possibly, work on the streets themselves this summer.
Attendees of Thursday’s meeting at Augusta City Center listened to representatives of the various projects coming to Mayfair, and asked officials to keep them informed of when work is coming, and where, so they can plan ahead.
The meeting, according to Ward 2 City Councilor Darek Grant, whose Hutchinson Drive home is in the neighborhood, and who requested the meeting, was meant to inform residents about the projects, give them a chance to express their thoughts and concerns and hopefully be a start to improved communications about such projects which can be disruptive to residents and motorists.
About 35 residents of the east side neighborhood near the intersection of Eastern Avenue and Hospital Street heard from officials from Maine Natural Gas, Greater Augusta Utility District and the city, what each has planned there for this construction season.
Jerry Dostie, street superintendent for the city, said Maine Natural Gas has permits to put gas lines along all streets in Mayfair. He said he was surprised to learn Thursday the company plans to put further work in Mayfair on hold for now.
Maine Natural Gas officials told the residents natural gas is safe and used in some 60 million homes.
Bottomley said the company needs around 20 to 30 percent of homes on a street to convert to gas to make it economically feasible to lay pipe there. He said the company must hear from Mayfair residents who wish to connect to gas so it can determine how much more line to run in the neighborhood. He noted the company would like to bring gas to Windsor Avenue, a major road in the neighborhood with about 25 houses on it, but hasn’t made a final determination to do so yet.
He said the company, already this spring, has brought about 6,500 feet of gas lines to streets in Mayfair including First, Third, Fourth, and Sixth avenues.
Public Works Director Lesley Jones said a regularly updated map of construction work in the city, including work by both gas companies, the Greater Augusta Utility District, the city, and state Department of Transportation, is available on the city’s website, www.augustamaine.gov, through a link to Google maps, and on the Augusta Public Works Department’s Facebook page.
Jones said the map is an effort to keep residents and commuters informed about work in the city, but is not yet complete.
“You can pull up the map and put your cursor over whatever you want to look at,” Jones said. “It’s a work in progress, but I think we’re getting there.”
Bottomley said the company generally notifies residents a week ahead of time when it is coming to their area, but acknowledged that didn’t happen this spring in Mayfair, where construction was already taking place when some residents got their notices.
Work is already underway on natural gas pipeline installation in Mayfair, by Maine Natural Gas, one of two companies installing pipeline in the Augusta area.
Jones said it is unlikely competitor Summit Natural Gas of Maine will also make the investment to bring natural gas pipes into the Mayfair neighborhood, where Maine Natural Gas already has installed infrastructure.
Greater Augusta Utility District Superintendent Brian Tarbuck said the district plans to install a new water main on Windsor Avenue this summer. He said a main installed there previously wasn’t installed correctly in the 1960s and the line has had failures as a result.
The $250,000 project will replace 1,650 feet of mains on Windsor Avenue between Sherbrook Street and Duncan Road. He said it is expected to start around July 7 and be done by the end of August.
Tarbuck said the district is doing the work now to get new pipe in before the city’s planned repaving project on Windsor Avenue next summer.
He said the district would restore the road to at least as good of a condition as it was in before they started their underground utility work.
Dostie said Windsor Avenue needs to be repaved but is not in such bad condition it needs to be entirely rebuilt.
“We’ll repave the road and it should last for 20 years and be in decent shape,” he said.
City ordinance bans tearing up newly paved streets for at least five years, so if Maine Natural gas doesn’t install gas lines under Windsor Avenue before the city paving project next summer, it could be five years before residents of the street could get gas there.
Grant said there could also be similar neighborhood meetings about such construction work elsewhere in the city, to improve communications with residents as work takes place in multiple locations around the city.
Keith Edwards – 621-5647 | [email protected] | Twitter: @kedwardskj