BANGOR, Maine&nbsp- Penobscot County commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to enter into a contract with Bangor Gas Co. to supply natural gas to the Penobscot County Jail, courthouse and 3rd District Court building.

Bangor Gas Sales Manager Jon Kunz told commissioners that he was hopeful the county complex would be on line by late October or early November. He said he could not promise the line could be extended the 2,000 or so feet to the county complex before the winter heating season begins.

Kunz said that the company was having trouble keeping up with the demand for natural gas service since the price of heating oil reached $4 a gallon. The company has had to hire out-of-state contractors to do the line extensions because the company’ s three crews have more work than they can handle.

The switch is expected to save an estimated $16,600 a year if current prices for oil and gas remain stable, County Treasurer Dan Tremble said earlier this month when he presented the plan to commissioners.

The gas company will pay the expense of bringing the line to the Hammond Street campus, and the county will spend at least $37,000 to convert a dual system that could use either gas or heating oil. The line currently runs along Ohio Street.

The jail, courthouse and District Court have used an average of 85,000 gallons of oil a year, according to Tremble. The recent installation of energy saving devices is expected to save about 10,000 gallons.

Some of the savings from the conversion to natural gas will go to pay for air conditioning for the jail kitchen that commissioners approved Tuesday. It is expected to be installed in about three weeks and cost about $16,600, according to Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross.

“The temperature in the kitchen on one day this summer reached 123 degrees,” head cook Donna Downing told commissioners. “Some days I’ ve gone home sick from the heat.”

The air conditioning is expected to lower the temperature by about 20 degrees.

Because the kitchen is in a secure section of the building, it has no windows and can not be vented, Ross said Tuesday after the meeting. More breads are being baked at the jail and more dishes are being prepared in the kitchen while fewer prepared and canned foods are being purchased, he said.

An increase in the number of inmates at the jail has resulted in an increase in the number of meals prepared in the kitchen, Downing said. She estimated that between 15,000 and 18,000 meals a month are prepared at the jail.

Estimates on the cost of electricity to run the air conditioner were not available Tuesday.

jharrison@bangordailynews.net

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