WINSLOW — Town Councilors will meet with representatives from Summit Natural Gas on Wednesday to discuss the company decision to pull back on its planned expansion into town this year.

Last November, the company proposed extending gas pipelines across the Kennebec River from Waterville and into Winslow’s residential center with main lines running north-south along Benton Avenue and U.S. Route 201 and into nearby neighborhoods.

Summit spokeswoman Tammy Poissonnier confirmed in an email last week that the company has decided not to move into Winslow in 2015.

“Although it was not feasible to build in Winslow in 2015, we will work with local community on identifying alternative plans to supply natural gas in the community,” she said.

“My understanding is that it is a question of timing,” Town Manager Michael Heavener said.

Wednesday’s meeting is intended to give the company a chance to explain its proposal, Heavener said. Company president Mike Tanchuk and director of business development Mike Duguay are expected to attend, he added.

Expansion of natural gas to Winslow is part of Summit’s 68-mile backbone pipeline that stretches along the Kennebec River from Pittston to Madison. It was begun in 2013 and has cost $350 million to date,

The first indication from Summit that it might be changing its plans came in a phone conversation in January, Heavener said. The Town Council discussed the issue at its February meeting.

“It’s the lack of communication that concerns me,” said Town Councilor Ken Fletcher.

Until the town received word Summit was rethinking its plans, the company appeared to have made a commitment to start installing gas pipelines this year, he said.

Last year the town even requested that the Maine Department of Transportation put off its planned paving project on Route 201 until the summer of 2015 in order to accommodate the anticipated Summit build-out.

Maine DOT intends to repave 2.4 miles of Route 201 between the Vassalboro town line and the Route 137 intersection starting this summer. After completing construction, DOT requires a five-year moratorium on utility work that would disturb the road.

But Summit has not closed the door to bringing gas to Winslow, according to Poissonnier, who said the company will make installations to avoid conflict with the paving work.

The company will “install the required critical roadway crossings to prepare for a later build,” Poissonnier said.

The town office and Winslow schools want to connect to Summit’s pipeline and would be a significant user for the company, Fletcher said. An uncertain connection date makes it difficult to plan for the expense of converting heating systems in the buildings to use gas, he said.

“We need to have some commitment from Summit that says ‘we’re going to be there,'” Fletcher said.

While the company has not discussed the reasons that it has decided to delay the expansion, Fletcher suspects that it may be a concern that affects other communities.

“I think they have run into issues they didn’t anticipate in the build-out,” he said.

Depending on the company’s response to the town, Fletcher may consider organizing with neighboring communities to get a better picture of whether Summit is meeting the build-out plans it made as part of its license from the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Winslow, Waterville and Fairfield discussed forming a natural gas district to serve as a liaison between customers and the company in 2013. The conversation didn’t lead to forming an agency, but Fletcher thinks it might be time to reconsider the idea so that the city and towns have more clout with the state.

“We might have to take steps as a larger community to take something to the PUC or consider other action,” Fletcher said.

The council will meet with Summit representatives Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the Winslow Town Office.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.