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Falmouth gas plans scaled back

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Falmouth gas plans scaled back

FALMOUTH — Town officials say Summit Natural Gas is reducing the scope of pipeline installations this year, but the utility company hasn't offered much detail.

The unexpected announcement came during the May 28 Town Council meeting, when a resident of Falmouth Road asked if the planned installation of the natural gas pipeline would affect Maine Turnpike Authority's plans to repave the bridge over the Falmouth Spur this summer.

Outgoing Chairwoman Teresa Pierce said installation on Falmouth Road won't take place this year, and asked Town Manager Nathan Poore to elaborate.

"That may be news to some people," Poore said. "They're looking at cutting back their plans and not heading so far west into town. We're developing a brochure that will be distributed town-wide electronically. So, for those that are wondering, 'Wait a minute, I thought we were getting gas this year,' it looks like it's probably going to be delayed this far west until next year."

Representatives of Summit Natural Gas hadn't confirmed Poore's statement by press time Tuesday, but Director of Business Development Mike Duguay offered a quizzical response by email.

"This construction season we want to continue to install as many miles of pipeline as possible. Our success will be based on several factors including working with community leaders, the ever-changing construction conditions and methods," Duguay wrote.

"In Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth, we are going to build our initial larger pipelines along major roadways to help provide a more affordable heating source to many as businesses and residents this winter."

Poore re-iterated on Tuesday afternoon that plans have been reduced for this year, saying that the project to install pipeline along Lunt, Falmouth and Woodville roads west of Interstate 295 in Falmouth had been postponed until next year.

"A lot of it has to do with lining up contractors to do the I-295 crossing, which is fairly complex," Poore said. "They should get caught up in subsequent years."

In April, during an informational meeting at Town Hall, Duguay told residents that it's difficult to guarantee a completion date. The rate of installing distribution lines can vary between 200 and 1,000 feet per day, he said, adding that the company doesn't want "anyone to disable (an existing) heating system and make it inoperable," until the pipeline is operational.

Installation began last month in Cumberland near the county fairgrounds, with plans to move eastward to Route 88. From there, the project is slated to continue north to Yarmouth and south to Falmouth.

In the original scope of this year's installation, distribution lines in Falmouth were planned for portions of Route 88, Johnson Road, the business section of U.S. Route 1, Lunt Road, part of Falmouth Road to Town Hall, and part of Woodville Road to the town schools.

The entire project, which includes laying 1.2 million feet of pipe in the three towns, is expected to take between three and five years. Colorado-based Summit has projected reaching a saturation level of 86 percent in the three communities within five years, or nearly 7,700 customers.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.