January 12, 2013

Winslow council to hear Summit Natural Gas pitch on Monday

Councilors will also tour recently renovated police station

By Ben McCanna bmccanna@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WINSLOW -- The second of two natural gas companies planning to build pipelines through central Maine will present its plans to the Town Council Monday night. Councilors also will tour the newly improved police station, which had been under construction for several months, and decide whether to extend the deadline for a continuing construction project within the Town Office.

click image to enlarge

Art O'Brien, left, and Richard Hjort work on the Winslow police chief's office in the new department renovations project on Dec. 20. Town councilors are scheduled to tour the renovated station on Monday.

Staff file photo by David Leaming

Highlights from a special meeting held Jan. 2

During a special council meeting on Jan. 2, the Winslow Town Council voted to give themselves a raise from $10 to $25 for every regular meeting the councilors attend, Town Manager Michael Heavener said. The increased stipends means the seven members of the council are eligible for $300 per year, if they have a perfect attendance record.

In other business, the council re-appointed Gerald Saint Amand as its chairman for his second consecutive one-year term. Newly elected councilor Benjamin Twitchell was also sworn in.

The meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Town Office, will feature a presentation by a representative from Summit Natural Gas Inc. In December, the council heard a similar presentation from rival company Maine Natural Gas.

Town Manager Michael Heavener said the gas companies' presentations are strictly informational and the council will take no votes on the subject.

Summit Natural Gas is competing with Maine Natural Gas to supply natural gas to many of the same communities in central Maine. On Thursday, the state authorized Summit to begin construction of pipelines that could provide natural gas service to 17 central Maine communities -- Albion, Augusta, Belgrade, China, Fairfield, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hallowell, Madison, Norridgewock, Oakland, Richmond, Sidney, Skowhegan, Waterville, Windsor and Winslow. Summit's proposed natural gas pipeline will run from an existing connection in Windsor to Augusta and throughout the region.

Last year, Maine Natural Gas received the state's approval to operate in Maine and has started laying a supply line to the new MaineGeneral Medical Center regional hospital, under construction in north Augusta. The company had also won a bid to bring a gas pipeline to state facilities in Augusta; however, that award was thrown out by an appeals panel because the state's decision-making process was found to be flawed. Maine Natural Gas has since filed a lawsuit.

Before the Monday meeting, councilors also will take a tour of the new police station, which was completed last week a few days before its scheduled completion date. Afterward, the council will decide whether to grant a five-day extension to Peachey Builders for ongoing construction elswehere in the building.

In October, the council added a stipulation to its contract with Peachey Builders that allows the town to charge the company $1,000 for every day the project extends beyond the scheduled completion date of Jan. 14. Heavener said he's not making a recommendation to the council, but added that there's less urgency to complete the work within the Town Office, unlike the police station project.

"There's no hardship for us up here other than the fact that there's construction going on. In other words, we haven't been displaced like the police department was, and I think that was the primary reason for the deadline, to give some incentive or motivation for the contractor to get the work done in a timely fashion," he said.

In July, the police department moved out of its home of 30 years and into temporary quarters upstairs in the fire station, to allow Peachey Builders to double the size of the station with an addition and renovation. Construction of the addition's foundation began in mid-July, but a few weeks later the state issued stop-work orders because the contractor hadn't applied for a building permit from the state fire marshal.

Then, after reviewing the plans, the fire marshal required the town to include upgrades to the police station and the attached Town Office to comply with the Life Safety Code and Americans with Disabilities Act.

The construction site was idle for more than nine weeks, from August to October, while the builder, the architect and the state fire marshal's office revised the blueprints to satisfy code requirements, which added $165,000 to the project.

Ben McCanna -- 861-9239

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