At the Monday, July 7 Board of Selectmen‘s meeting, the town selectmen voted unanimously to approve the Town of Wilton/Yankee Gas Project Development Agreement. That agreement allows Yankee Gas to expand distribution of natural gas in Wilton and to start installation of the gas line, beginning later this month.

First selectman Bill Brennan made a statement, which he also emailed to local press:

I am pleased to announce that the Town of Wilton and Yankee Gas have successfully finalized a Project Development Agreement (PDA) to expand natural gas distribution in Wilton. Construction is scheduled to start the end of July and be completed in November.

A little background – in June 2011, the Town of Wilton and Yankee Gas started discussions to enable the expansion of natural gas into Wilton Center and to various municipal buildings, specifically Middlebrook and Cider Mill Schools, Comstock Community Center and Wilton High School. There were numerous obstacles to overcome including regulatory issues, logistical hurtles, and timing problems. Both sides, however, were determined to provide our community with an alternative energy source for both economic and environmental reasons.

The oil fired boilers at the Middlebrook School, the Cider Mill School, and the Comstock Center are in need of replacement and this is the ideal time to convert their heating systems to run on less expensive natural gas. In May, at the annual town meeting, the voters approved bonded capital appropriations of $1,970,400 to purchase and install new furnaces. Once they are connected, it is projected that our community will save between $450K and $500K per year on the Town’s energy bills.

While initially hampered by antiquated regulatory restrictions, which were updated in the last legislative session, Yankee Gas assigned a senior management team to work out the details of drafting plans, getting permits and easements from numerous authorities, securing contractors’ bids, and coordinating with the Town for an efficient and speedy construction schedule. Since March, there have been weekly progress meetings between Yankee Gas and Town officials, including Tom Thurkettle, director of public works; Bob Nerney, director of planning and land use management; Ken Bernhard, town counsel; Dick Dubow, Board of Selectmen; Bruce Hampton, chairman of the Energy Commission; and me.

Starting on August 1, in an effort to avoid congestion and to work as quickly as possible, two priority segments have been scheduled for an intensive initial effort, while people are away and the schools are closed:

  1. Wilton Village – Rte. 33/Center St. to the condo area on River Rd.
  2. Kristine Lilly Way – Corner of School Rd. and Cider Mill School to Wilton High School

Yankee Gas will be permitted to have two or more construction teams working 12 hours on weekdays, between 7 a.m.–7 p.m., and will be permitted to do work on the Saturdays of August 2, 9 and 16.

Notwithstanding the good efforts of both sides to minimize disruption, it is important for all citizens to realize that during the construction period commencing in late July and continuing through November, there will be temporary periods of traffic congestion, periodic delays, and unavoidable inconvenience.

In order for people to plan ahead, route maps, and to the extent possible, construction schedules will be posted on the Town’s website and also be available and displayed at the Town Hall and the Annex. Police officers and flaggers will be on construction sites to assist in keeping traffic moving and disruption to a minimum. The Town will provide project updates to keep people informed and indicate where construction crews will be operating.

In summary, The Town will soon have an alternate energy source available to it for use by municipal, commercial and residential properties. For a few months it will be a disruptive undertaking, but in a short while, Wilton’s gas expansion project will establish the community as a leader under the State’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy Program, and most important, the Town will have beneficial energy options to serve our community for the future.

On behalf of the Board of Selectmen, I respectfully request every citizen’s understanding and patience during the scheduled Yankee Gas project construction period.