WILTON, Maine — Summit Natural Gas is willing to consider installing a gas line from Jay to Farmington and on to Livermore Falls, a spokesman told area residents at the Town Office on Thursday.
“From what I’ve seen so far, it looks viable,” said Timothy Johnston, executive vice president of Summit Utilities.
There is no deal or specific plans yet.
Approximately 25 municipal leaders, business and property owners attended the meeting.
Following a discussion in Farmington, a survey is being circulated in the four towns to gauge interest in a natural gas supply line, explained Alison Hagerstrom, executive director at Greater Franklin Development Corp.
The company’s construction plate looks full through 2013. The earliest would be 2014, Johnston said.
There’s also a permitting and regulatory process with the Public Utilities Commission, explained Michelle Moorman, manager of regulatory affairs for the company, who answered questions with Johnston.
Summit came to Maine about a year ago to pursue a gas line project in the Kennebec Valley area. Wilton selectman and state Sen. Thomas Saviello of Wilton met Johnston in Augusta and invited him to town to share more information.
At about the same time, state Rep. Lance Harvell of Farmington organized the meeting in Farmington to discuss the idea of connecting a gas line from Verso Paper in Jay and running it along the recreational rail trail to Farmington.
Johnston said he’s not sure about using the rail trail, the road might work just as well. He was sure of the amount of savings natural gas customers could find. It’s about half the cost of oil, he said.
Savings for a typical residence would be around $1,500 a year with gas, he said.
“That’s $1,500 per house that’s likely to stay within the community,” Harvell said.
Asked about a construction timeline, the company knocks on doors first to build a customer base. If construction starts in the spring, the entire line would be done in time for the next heating season, he said.
Construction of a steel main line across the Androscoggin River in Jay and on to Farmington would branch out with plastic pipe to businesses and homes.
The company would hire local contractors and train them to install the piping, he said. He expected the work would include about 45 temporary jobs and three to four technicians to run the line after construction.
The gas line is not about creating jobs for construction but what users can get out of it, Saviello said. Lower energy costs provide more opportunities for economic development, he explained.
“Where does Livermore Falls stand,” Town Manager Kristal Flagg asked.
Johnston agreed with the potential for putting the line through to Isaacson Lumber Co. on Route 133 in Livermore Falls.
Wilton resident and business owner Jennifer Taylor expressed concerns about the safety of gas in light of recent explosions in the United States.
“We see only the bad stuff,” Moorman said, explaining that most problems result from aging systems that are not well-maintained.
The plastic pipes don’t corrode and there are stop valves on each line into a property that shut off the system when there’s a leak. There’s also a chemical added to the gas that makes a rotten egg smell when gas leaks, she said.
“It’s as safe as any other fuel,” Johnston said.
The company trains fire departments to deal with gas issues and public education is also done, Moorman said.