RUMFORD — Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs said Thursday that plans to install a natural gas pipeline along River and Congress streets this summer have been scratched because it would delay the major downtown construction work underway.

The gas lines and fiber-optic cables for broadband internet service were add-ons to this summer’s $5.4 million project to replace water, sewer and stormwater lines in the downtown business district on The Island. 

“I’m disappointed. I’m very disappointed. But I’m keeping the promise that we made to get the main project done by December,” Briggs told business and community leaders at a meeting of EnvisionRumford, an economic development organization.

“I’m sticking to it until someone tells me that we have to push it out.”

Jen Kreckel, who has a business on Congress Street, said she also was disappointed and asked why the gas line has been scrapped.

“This has been talked about for quite some time,” she said. “I’m a little upset here, because I was looking forward to the gas on Congress Street, as were other of my fellow business people.”

Briggs said: “It was the timing on ordering the pipes. I guess I will have to take that responsibility. I was working with other folks, and the design didn’t get done in time to accommodate the construction schedule of the main project.”

She said the main project has been in the making for a number of years, but plans for installing the natural gas lines and fiber-optic cables have only been in the making for a year.

“There was an add-on project for broadband and natural gas,” Briggs said. “At no time was the main project to be interrupted because of the natural gas and the broadband. Therefore, we had to make some changes to that project.”

Randall Therrien, manager of KeyBank on Congress Street, added, “I’m disappointed, but we did understand right at the very beginning that this was not going to slow down the main project.”

Briggs said gas lines will be installed on Canal Street, while fiber-optic cables will go underground on Canal and Congress streets, but not River Street.

“Alternatively, so that we can bring broadband to the entire Island, we will go aerial on the other areas, Lowell and River streets,” Briggs said.

Rumford was awarded a $400,000 grant in August 2017 for broadband and natural gas infrastructure development through the Northern Border Regional Commission.

According to the office of U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, the grant calls for construction of 2 miles of natural gas pipeline and 2 miles of fiber-optic cable downtown, and reconstruction of a mile of sidewalk, more than a mile of roadway and 2 miles of water lines.

Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs, left, speaks Thursday with members of the economic development group EnvisionRumford about scaling back installation of natural gas lines downtown. Also shown: Kris Howes, center, of EnvisionRumford, and Gary Violette, on-site inspector for the downtown construction project. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)

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