May 25, 2018
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Pen Bay Healthcare moves toward using wood chips to heat hospital

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKPORT, Maine — Representatives of Pen Bay Healthcare will be before the Rockport Planning Board on Wednesday afternoon to discuss a proposal to convert the hospital’s heating system to a less costly fuel.

The heating conversion program is the first phase of a potential significant expansion of the health care campus. The master plan also calls for the eventual construction of a hospice house and a birthing center.

The town planning board is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House. WBRC Architects/Engineers will present plans for two options for converting Penobscot Bay Medical Center’s heating system to a different fuel.

One option would be to build the necessary building and equipment to switch from heating oil to liquid natural gas.

“The NG (natural gas) would be delivered and stored on site as liquid natural gas (LNG) for which a temporary storage area is needed. In its liquid state the gas is not flammable nor is it explosive,” the letter from WBRC to the town states.

If the hospital goes ahead with the natural gas option it would likely only be for a few years until it converts to a biomass system that would burn wood chips.

“The annual savings realized from this financial change will aid in the hospital’s future expansions and improvements,” the letter states.

The savings are estimated at $250,000 annually, according to Tom Ford, Rockport planner and community development director.

Larry Mellenthin, PBMC physical plant director, said Monday that no decision has been made on whether the hospital will go for the natural gas option and then the biomass or directly to biomass. The Wednesday afternoon meeting is billed as a preapplication meeting and no action is scheduled to be taken.

Construction for the conversion to natural gas would include a concrete pad for storage of the gas. The pad would be located near a parking lot on the east side of the hospital. There would be four bays to accommodate four tanks.

The storage site would be screened so as to not be visible from the hospital or abutting properties. The number of deliveries (42 to 46 per year) is expected to be about the same as shipments of heating oil, according to WBRC.

The biomass project would require an approximate 2,500-square-foot addition on the north side of the hospital.

An underground concrete bunker would be located next to the addition for storage of wood chips.

While other projects will not be brought before the board Wednesday night, Megan Williams, director of communications for Pen Bay Healthcare, said that future expansion plans include a hospice house and a birthing center.

Pen Bay received approval in July 2007 from the Rockland Planning Board for a seven-bed hospice house to be located on Pleasant Street adjacent to Kno-Wal-Lin home health care’s office building. At the time, groundbreaking was expected to be held that fall, with an opening in the spring of 2008, but the recession halted those plans. That approval since has expired.

The hospice house was to measure 9,000 square feet and cost about $3.3 million.

Pen Bay Healthcare is the parent corporation of both PBMC and Kno-Wal-Lin.

Pen Bay has 64 acres at its Rockport campus that includes the 178,000-square-foot hospital, a 39,000-square-foot physicians building, a 3,600-square-foot day care center and a 12,000-square-foot women’s health center.

No other details on the hospice or birthing center have been released.

The Rockport Planning Board also will consider several other projects including another phase of construction of residential condominiums for the Village at Rockport off Route 1, a garage and office building on Route 1, a seafood shack restaurant on Union Street by Graffam Brothers, the expansion of an office building on Route 1, and an additional lot to a subdivision on Park Street.

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