Officials hope for installation of natural gas link to town by summer
Published 1:25 pm, Friday, December 26, 2014
A plan to connect several buildings on and near Waveny Park to natural gas supplies is taking shape as New Canaan officials and Yankee Gas work on a new, more-modest project.
A year ago this month, town and utility officials signed a memorandum of understanding outlining the goals of bringing natural gas to New Canaan. The plan was to use several municipal facilities as "anchors" for the townwide project and expand as "tentacles" to secondary roads, where there was the most interest.
Planners projected installing the first five miles of gas mains by last fall, but winter has arrived and there have been no signs of natural gas in town, which the utility says is caused by a new state regulation.
The Comprehensive Energy Strategy plan, adopted in 2013, introduces a "portfolio" approach to gas extensions requiring that 60 percent of potential customers commit to service before construction starts. Despite widespread disappointment by New Canaan officials, the town's top elected leaders are again optimistic.
First Selectman Robert Mallozzi said last week that "conversations are going extremely well" and that a presentation detailing the new plan would take place at a town Utilities Commission meeting sometime this winter.
"The good news is, no matter when they come, whether it's February or March, they are committed to start work in July or August," Mallozzi said.
The plan is to bring natural gas from Stamford, through Davenport Ridge Road, to Waveny Care Center, Waveny House, Saxe Middle, South Elementary and New Canaan High schools, and the New Canaan YMCA.
The memorandum, however, "memorializes" the utility's commitment to bring gas to the entire town, according to Mallozzi.
"It would be so easy for any of us to get a big contract," and then be done, he said. "But we want to make sure that they want to be our partners and bring gas further down the line toward the town and toward all these neighbors."
Selectman Nick Williams said the document is still binding. He noted that the next legal step is a project development agreement.
Mallozzi also said Yankee Gas has recently "banked" hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the project after the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority approved the investment this month. The funding would help offset costs to New Canaan taxpayers, Mallozzi said.
In an email, Yankee Gas spokesman Mitch Gross reassured the utility's commitment to the town.
"We are pleased with the progress we are making and look forward to working with the town of New Canaan to bring clean-burning and affordable natural gas to their residents and businesses," he wrote.
Over the summer, the utility's first large-scale natural gas expansion project was launched in Wilton. The town was the first to partner with Yankee Gas through the state's Comprehensive Energy Strategy.
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