Vergennes to have natural gas by 2015
VERGENNES — Vermont Gas Systems said barring surprises it plans to have natural gas supply lines running throughout the city of Vergennes by late 2015, according to company spokesman Steve Wark.
Vermont Gas intends to begin construction in June of the pipeline extension to bring gas from its main pipeline route through Addison County in Vergennes. Wark said that extension should be complete by August, with work also ongoing in Vergennes to prepare for distributing the company’s product.
It is part of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project — a 41-mile extension of the Vermont Gas pipeline from Colchester to Middlebury that was given the OK by the Public Service Board late last year.
Company representatives met with the Ferrisburgh selectboard last week to discuss details of an easement it needs from that town along the south side of Plank Road. That is the route a three-mile natural gas distribution line will take to Vergennes from a gate station that Vermont Gas plans to build at the intersection of Plank and Lime Kiln roads in New Haven.
Wark confirmed this week that distribution line will not cross private property, but run to Route 7 using Plank Road rights of way in New Haven, Ferrisburgh and Waltham.
The only exception to that rule, Wark said, is if landowners want to preserve trees that are right along the road and would prefer to negotiate with Vermont Gas to run a line around them.
“Some people may not want a tree removed, so we may have to deal with that,” he said. “Then it is a case-by-case basis.”
In many cases, however, contractors might be able to drill under trees without harming them or crossing private property, Wark said.
Roughly four-dozen homes are within 100 feet of that planned distribution line and will be able to tap on and use the product, Wark said, while others could negotiate with Vermont Gas to extend a line further to their properties.
When the distribution line reaches Route 7, Wark said, Vermont Gas will drill under the state highway, and then continue the line along Church Street in Waltham and Vergennes to New Haven Road in the city.
Whether homes, businesses, schools and city buildings are hooked up in Vergennes by the end of 2015 depends on several factors, Wark said, including weather and construction and permitting variables.
But Vermont Gas officials are optimistic.
“We’ve always had that aspirational goal of serving Vergennes in 2015,” Wark said.
Unlike in some other county communities — through which proposed Vermont Gas pipelines will pass without serving host towns, and residents are concerned with the impact on their properties — the project is popular in Vergennes.
In December 2013, Vergennes residents voted, 345-143, to back the city council’s stance in favor of the Vermont Gas pipeline extension into Addison County. Vermont Gas could serve up to 929 of the 932 properties in Vergennes, according to city officials, once the company negotiates easements along some private residential roads.
Wark said Vermont Gas would make it a priority to get service to bigger customers in Vergennes first, including United Technologies Corp. on Panton Road and city schools.
“Large anchors, we try to make them our first priority,” Wark said.
Addison Northwest Supervisory Union officials have said they would like to use natural gas, which right now is less expensive than other heating alternatives, in city schools to save money on heating budgets. Wark estimated the switch to natural gas could save Vergennes Union High School about $60,000 a year.
Wark did caution the company cannot guarantee the city will be served by the end of 2015.
“One never knows what conditions can occur or what can delay construction,” he said. “It could be permitting, it could be weather-related, it could be supply. There could be many factors.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].
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