WATERVILLE — A natural gas pipeline that will bring a new energy source to homes and businesses in Central Maine is bringing some temporary, but irksome, inconvenience to business along the route.
In Waterville, trenches for a branch of the pipeline are being dug on College Avenue from the intersection of Front Street to Seavey Street, and the owner of seasonal TJ’s Dogs says it has hurt his business.
John Bard, owner of the open-air hot dog stand, said he delayed his season opening because he was told that drilling for laying the pipeline would happen during the first week of May, which is usually when he opens.
“We figured if no one can get in the driveway we would be losing money. Better to let them come and do the drilling and finish it that week,” he said.
But the drilling work wasn’t done, he said, and nobody from Summit told him that plans had changed.
When work to dig the street to install the pipeline began, Bard said construction vehicles from Summit contractors used his parking lot without permission and kicked up dust, which cost him customers. He sells his food out of an open truck, and customers eat at picnic tables on his site.
“I realize they have a job to get done,” said Bard, 50. “Nobody wants to come to this side of town and when they do, they pull into the driveway and turn around because they see the dust. It’s filthy and the company doesn’t care.”
Summit executives said the disruption is temporary and will eventually bring benefits.
“Along College Avenue and in the Waterville community, most people understand the positive long-term impact that natural gas will have for the local economy,” said Mike Duguay, director of business development for Summit Natural Gas of Maine in an emailed response to a request for comment,
Bard says the outdoor nature of his business means he feels the effects the hardest.
“Everybody that sits here can’t leave their windows down. When cars come through they just kick up all the dust,” said Bard, sitting at one of the picnic tables outside the stand.
On the same side of the street as the Bard’s shop, Shaun Cook, owner of Vapor Gurus, an electronic cigarette store, said he lost about $900 in sales because of construction blocking his parking lot on Monday.
“I made some of it up today, but I could have used that extra money,” said Cook.
Across the street from the pipeline’s footprint, the impact is not as severe.
Zena McFadden, owner of Bolley’s Famous Franks, said that construction hasn’t been a problem except for two days last week when the parking lot was cut off.
“I think people are avoiding College Avenue because they don’t want to deal with the traffic and all the dust,” said McFadden. “It’s not too bad since they moved to the other end of the road, but I know they’ll be back later in the summer.”
At Casey’s Discount Beverage and Tobacco, another College Avenue business close to the construction, manager Misty Carrow said construction has not had an impact on business.
“We’ve been as busy as ever,” she said “I think we only had one call about construction, and when we brought it up with workers they were very good about it.”
Carrow said she wasn’t sure if the business will connect to natural gas when it becomes available.
Duguay declined to comment on the specific complaints from Bard, but said Summit tries to work with the businesses on the route.
“Along with our crews, I have a great deal of respect for the businesses along College Avenue,” Duguay said in his email. “Our contractors work with the landowners in our construction areas for temporary use of a property prior to our work and they have been very understanding.”
But Bard said he’s only open for about seven months out of the year and the impact will be hard to rebound from.
“I’m just a disabled hot dog guy on the side of the road and I’m getting squished by this project,” said Bard.” “It’s not right. It’s killing us.”
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368 |