SIDNEY — Summit Natural Gas of Maine announced Friday that it plans to break ground on a project to expand its services and infrastructure to Sidney this spring after striking a deal with asphalt and aggregate materials producer Pike Industries.

A timeline for the project has yet to be determined, Summit spokeswoman Lizzy Reinholt said. The start of construction will depend on weather and ground temperature.

Summit expects to invest over $4.5 million to lay the 46,000 feet of pipe needed to complete the project, according to a statement announcing the expansion.

“We continually hear from businesses that access to natural gas is one of their key considerations when choosing where to locate,” Summit’s lead commercial sales representative Skye Austin said in the statement. “We look forward to partnering with the town of Sidney to help strengthen its local economy, while reducing emissions by providing businesses and residents a lower emission fuel alternative.”

Pike Industries, which operates a plant in Sidney and employs about 350 people in Maine, was the sole driver behind Summit’s decision to expand, the chairman of Sidney’s Board of Selectmen, John Whitcomb, said Friday.

“There was no per se demand from customers, but they’re willing to offer other customers access as well,” Whitcomb said.

A Pike Industries representative was unavailable for comment Friday. However, in the statement from Summit, Pike Industries employee Kevin Folkins said the asphalt company was “continuously looking to expand our energy options.”

“Part of our sustainability strategy is to seek opportunities to optimize our energy use and resources. We are investing in our Sidney plant to reduce the amount of energy required in our production process and are excited to add the ability to use a cleaner fuel,” Folkins said.

Garvan Donegan, a senior economic development specialist for the Central Maine Growth Council, said the partnership between Pike Industries and Summit has been in the works for a while, and he expects additional investments in natural gas from other Sidney businesses in the next 12 months.

He applauded the move as offering “diverse and robust energy solutions (as well as) creating economic conditions to enable business to grow, to be created or expand.”

Donegan also worked with Summit to connect with businesses along Trafton Road in Waterville, where an interchange on Interstate 95 was developed recently, and said there are several ongoing negotiations with property and business owners along that stretch to do business with Summit.

The development of Trafton Road is creating a corridor of economic enterprise, and this represents a spillover into Sidney, he said.

Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, and Rep. Mike Perkins, R-Oakland, said the expansion is an opportunity to boost economic growth.

“As a small-business owner, I know firsthand how important it is to have affordable and reliable energy solutions,” Perkins said in the statement. “This expansion will increase choices for business owners and families throughout the community and should encourage future growth and investment.”

Summit has had to deal with several setbacks in the five years since it began operating in Maine.

In 2016, Summit was fined $307,000 for a major gas leak that was described as potentially “catastrophic” at a shopping plaza in Augusta and for other safety violations that dated to 2013 and 2014 construction, which included improper installations, having unqualified employees and failing to locate underground facilities.

In 2015, the Maine Public Utilities Commission required Summit to inspect and replace faulty equipment on transmission and residential distribution lines that contractors had installed incorrectly.

Reinholt said the company has worked on improving the safety of the system.

A public educational meeting about the project is scheduled for 6 p.m. meeting Wednesday at the Sidney Town Office.

Emily Higginbotham can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: EmilyHigg

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