July 16, 2013
WATERVILLE – City councilors Tuesday took final votes to authorize Summit Natural Gas of Maine Inc. to install distribution pipelines through the city.
The 6-0 vote to approve is contingent on Summit getting road opening permits from the city’s public works department. The distribution pipeline, scheduled to be installed this summer, will go from Kennedy Memorial Drive to Silver and Elm streets, pass by Post Office Square, continue to College Avenue and proceed to the Huhtamaki paper plant. “They intend to do that this summer,” City Engineer Greg Brown said. Mayor Karen Heck asked how much control the city would have over how well the roads are patched after the pipes are installed. “We’re going to address that in the road opening permit,” Brown said. He said the key is making sure the city inspects the work at the outset and makes sure it is done correctly. Summit, he said, is willing, where feasible, to put pipes under sidewalks. “People would love that, as opposed to working in one lane of traffic,” Heck said. Councilor Eliza Mathias, D-Ward 6, emphasized the importance of notifying the public about work on roads, so people will know how best to travel. Heck said a project on Cool Street created a mess.
Brown said city officials asked Summit officials, for instance, how the project would affect the entrance to Inland Hospital on Kennedy Memorial Drive. “They have to give us that plan prior to getting to that point in the work,” he said. He said as much information as possible needs to get out to the public as soon as it is acquired. “They’re (Summit officials) trying to be as upfront as possible but they want to make sure information they put out there is as accurate as possible.” Heck said she thinks people are happy natural gas is coming into the city, but they must be given information about the roads that doesn’t change once they’re out on them.
Michael Duguay, Summit’s director of business development, said that with a project of this size and with Maine’s construction season, the pipeline installation will be aggressive. He said city officials have been very good to work with and Summit wants to accommodate the community in its work. He said he understands that the city has expensive underground utilities and fiber optics, and Summit is mindful of that. “We want to do the best job that we can because we want to be here for a long time,” he said. Summit plans to have a public forum before the large-scale construction, he added. Councilor Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, said she is very pro gas, and thanked Duguay for coming. Waterville has a lot of commuters, many of whom come into the city via Kennedy Memorial Drive, she said. She asked Duguay if Summit can let travelers know via radio and other means that work is going on there. Duguay said Summit plans to buy newspaper advertisements with the information and will put as much information as possible on its website. “It might also be useful to have it posted on the city of Waterville Facebook page and maybe on the public works page,” Heck said. In other matters Tuesday, the council voted 6-0 to appoint a solid waste/recycling committee to study the city’s practices and recommend changes, if necessary. The council also voted 6-0 to approve a collective bargaining agreement with Teamsters Union Local 340, which represents 15 firefighters. They will get a 2 percent raise for the next three years as part of the contract. Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, was absent from Tuesday’s session.