Link to new school expands Brewer gas options

Posted Dec. 17, 2008, at 9:21 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — A new natural gas line will connect the $39.5 million elementary-middle school on Parkway South to a line on Abbot Street and will provide the much-desired heating fuel to residents along the way.

“We’ll be going up South Main Street to Grove Street and then up Grove to the new school,” said Jon Kunz, Bangor Gas marketing and sales manager. “We most likely will do the construction starting [in the] spring so they’ll have temporary heat next winter.”

Once the gas line is in place, residents along the roads will have an opportunity to connect to it, he said Wednesday.

Groundwork on the pre-kindergarten-through-eighth- grade school was done this fall, and shovels are expected to be in the ground in April. If all goes as planned, the new two-story, 156,000-square-foot school will be complete in summer 2011.

Brewer’s new school planning committee, composed of residents and school and city officials, first suggested using natural gas as a fuel source months ago because of the high price of heating oil.

“Natural gas was way, way cheaper that No. 2 [oil],” said Lester Young, Brewer School Department business manager. “We decided if we could get access to natural gas that would be the way to go.”

There are a number benefits of using natural gas for the project, he said.

“It really cuts the costs dramatically because you don’t have to store fuel,” which eliminates the need for underground tanks, Young said. And “natural gas will be used to fire a generator, which will be used for emergency lights if the power goes out.”

The kitchen also will use the gas for cooking, and “the price [of natural gas] isn’t usually as volatile as other fuels,” he said. “There is a substantial savings … [and] a lot of good reason to use natural gas.”

The added benefit is residents also will gain access, Ray Bolduc of WBRC Architects-Engineers of Bangor, said at a recent committee meeting.

Bangor Gas officials also hope to add lines to the city’s new Public Safety building on Parkway South and the wastewater treatment plant on South Main Street, Kunz said.

“The Public Safety building is another problem for us,” he said. “It’s now going to be our effort to get it from Grove [Street] to Parkway South back to that building. We’ll be doing a marking campaign in that area” to see if there is enough interest.

Business owners in the East-West Industrial Park have expressed an interest in natural gas, which would make extending the line to the Public Safety building more viable, Kunz said.

“We’ve been waiting for service,” City Manager Steve Bost said. “Right now, we can’t get it.”

Fire Chief Rick Bronson came up with the idea of laying a natural gas pipe under the paved parking lot so “in the event natural gas becomes available, we’ll be able to tap into it,” Police Chief Perry Antone said.

The building’s oil-burning furnace would need to be converted, he said, adding that it’s a “very modest” conversion cost for the ability to burn natural gas.

With heating oil prices fluctuating, and natural gas prices at their lowest level in five years, “There has been a lot of interest,” Kunz said. “A lot of people are looking to get gas.”

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