The president of Summit Natural Gas of Maine announced Friday that he plans to step down on Jan. 1.

Although Mike Minkos said he is leaving of his own volition, his departure comes during a stormy period for the utility. Dozens of prospective Summit customers lost thousands of dollars in deposits for heating work that was never completed after Dave Ireland Builders abruptly closed shop in November. Summit is repaying those costs and is honoring Ireland’s old contracts in an attempt to repair customer relations.

Minkos said his replacement will be Mike Tanchuk, the former CEO of Ormet Corporation, an Ohio-based aluminum smelter that filed for bankruptcy in 2013.

Minkos said he was called out of semi-retirement to lead Summit two years ago because of his experience with building utilities in New England. He is looking forward to moving back to western Massachusetts to be with his wife.

“I’m old,” said Minkos, 63. “Another winter up here … living away from my wife, it’s been a challenge.”

Minkos said resigning was his idea, and not a product of the recent troubles for Summit, which has been hit by construction delays, a $150,000 fine by the Maine Public Utilities Commission and a $72 million subcontractor lawsuit, and has otherwise struggled to meet its goals of connecting hundreds of customers to natural gas service in the Augusta area and the suburbs north of Portland this year.


An unknown number of residents in Cumberland, Yarmouth and Falmouth were promised by Summit that gas would flow to their homes by Nov. 1, but those targets have been pushed back.

The utility maintains that it had no relationship with Ireland, the contractor who went out of business after accepting customer deposits on heating system conversions. After public outrage and inquiries initiated by Cumberland police and the Consumer Protection Bureau of the state Attorney General’s Office brought more negative attention, Summit said it would repay customers’ lost deposits and honor their contracts.

Summit has said it has 4,000 customers who have signed contracts promising to switch to natural gas, but Minkos didn’t know Friday how many of those customers currently have gas flowing.

Minkos was hired by Summit in April 2013, bringing experience running natural gas utilities in New England, including in Maine.

Prior to Summit, Minkos worked as general manager and CEO for a Massachusetts electricity utility, and served as president and CEO of Portland Natural Gas Transmission System during a $600 million expansion of that utility’s gas network that was completed in 1999.

Tanchuk, Minkos’s replacement, was known in Ohio for his handling of regulatory processes during his tenure at Ormet, an aluminum casting plant that employed roughly 1,000 people.

Ormet ran into trouble when the price of electricity skyrocketed and the company struggled to contain the costs of running its plant. Tanchuk tried to negotiate a subsidy through Ohio’s utility regulator, but the regulators did not give the flagging metal producer the price break that it wanted, according to local reports at the time.

Tanchuk contended that deregulating the Ohio electricity market led to the uncontrolled costs, and that because of the impasse between the company and Ohio regulators, he was unable to fulfill a plan to transition the plant to generating its own electricity via natural gas by 2015.

Tanchuk did not respond to a message left at a New York City phone number listed in his name.

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