January 25, 2020

Essex Selectmen Endorse Natural Gas Expansion and School Board Commits

ESSEX— The board of selectmen has endorsed the planned extension of the Southern Connecticut Gas Co. natural gas main in to the Centerbrook section that would provide cost saving natural gas service to Essex Elementary School.

Acting on a suggestion from First Selectman Norman Needleman, the board at Wednesday’s meeting endorsed the expansion project and the planned conversion of the elementary school to heating by natural gas. The local board of education, acting at a June 25 special meeting that followed an information session with SCGC representatives, has voted in support of converting the school to natural gas.

Gas company representative John Maziarz announced at the June 25 session the Orange-based company is ready to undertake a $2.4 million extension of the natural gas north from Westbrook along Route 153 provide service in to Centerbrook, with the extension ending at the elementary school.. There would also be a short extension east on Bokum Road to provide service to the Lee Company factory complex and the Essex Meadows life care community.

Maziarz said the elementary school, Lee company, and Essex Meadows would be the three “anchor customers” needed for the project to go forward. Lee Company has already committed for the service, with Essex Meadows also expected to commit to the service.

But Needleman reported Wednesday a start of construction for the gas main extension may not begin as quickly as suggested by Maziarz suggested at the June 25 session, where the company representative said work on the extension could begin in August. Needleman said both the elementary school and Essex Meadows need to complete engineering studies to determine exactly what is required to convert the buildings for natural gas heating. He said the engineering reviews could take several; weeks, pushing back a start of construction for the gas main extension in to early fall.

In other business Wednesday, the board endorsed design plans for the “town campus” project that is funded by a $471,500 state Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant. The improvement project focuses ion the town hall parking lot and the abutting Grove Street Park.

The plans prepared by project engineers with Lenard Engineering of Glastonbury call for repaving the town hall parking lot, including a section that remains unpaved, and constructing a new crosswalk across Grove Street from the town hall parking lot to Essex Library. For the park, there would be new tennis courts and a handicapped accessible children’s playground. Bids for the project will be opened on Aug.8, with construction expected to begin in September.

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