FARMINGTON — Area town leaders decided Friday to seek requests for information from natural gas companies, as it continues to investigate extending a natural gas line along Route 4 from Jay to Farmington, and south to Livermore Falls.
An informal survey of some businesses shows the line along the Route 4 area could save businesses 2.2 million gallons of oil and propane each year, said Alison Hagerstrom of Greater Franklin Development Corporation, a leader of the project.
"There is quite a bit of interest," she told those gathered at the Municipal Building. The group included municipal leaders, representatives from Franklin Memorial Hospital, the University of Maine at Farmington, state Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton, and state Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington.
FMH Chief Financial Officer Wayne Bennett wondered how soon the line might be in place. Needing to cut costs, the medical campus is considering having compressed natural gas trucked in, a bridge to the pipeline, he said.
The switch from oil to trucked gas would save $200,000, he said. It could also mean a multiyear contract with Express Natural Gas (XNG) and a later connection to the gas line. The line would be less expensive than trucked gas, he said.
“We don't want to jeopardize the natural gas line,” he said after the meeting.
The university, hospital and PalletOne in Livermore Falls are the largest potential customers.
Summit Natural Gas expressed strong interest in the project in December.
The group wrestled with whether to go through a bid process with all gas companies or just negotiate with Summit.
The Colorado-based company, with an office in Augusta, specializes in rural gas line development. Because of other Maine projects, the company indicated 2014 would be the earliest it could start.
Although its costs are a little higher than other companies, the penetration area, or distance the line expands beyond the main line, is larger, Saviello explained. The company also indicated a practice of hiring local contractors to install the line.
The group decided to seek requests for information from natural gas companies. Saviello will formulate a set of questions and, based on what response they receive, the group will meet again perhaps with those company representatives.
With all the press on previous meetings, has any other company called or expressed interest, Wilton Selectman Scott Taylor asked. He suggested seeking the request for information rather than a bid process. No other gas companies have called or expressed interest in the project.
Taylor also suggested each town pass a resolution indicating the gas line is something the town wants to do.
Concerns about extra equipment and training for local emergency services were raised.
Summit indicated training and public education are part of the project.
The role of each municipality was questioned.
No tax dollars are used, Farmington Town Manager Richard Davis said.
The number of explosions with natural gas, compared to the number using gas, are minuscule, Harvell said. More homes burn from using wood, he said.
Anyone in Farmington, Wilton, Jay or Livermore Falls who has questions or ideas about the proposed line is welcome to contact their town manager to discuss it or get more information.