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Strafford County Complex to convert to natural gas by fall

By John Quinn
Union Leader Correspondent

May 01. 2014 8:23PM
From left, David Cluff of Brox Industries, Todd Black of Unitil, Strafford County Commissioners - Leo Lessard, George Maglaras and Bob Watson – Strafford County Sheriff David Dubois and N.H. Rep. Roger Berube of Somersworth take part in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new natural gas line, which should be ready this fall, for the County Complex in Dover Thursday afternoon. (John Quinn/Union Leader Correspondent)

DOVER — By the fall, eight buildings at the Strafford County Complex — including the jail, courthouse and elderly housing — will be heated by natural gas and result in savings to taxpayers.

Many of the underground pipes have been installed. A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday to celebrate the 8,300-foot extension from the county complex to an existing gas line used by a nearby asphalt plant owned by Brox Industries.

While Brox had hoped to connect to the county’s line, Plant Manager David Cluff said it was happy to see the roles reversed. Brox installed the Rochester Neck pipeline a few years ago to convert to natural gas, saving the company 30 percent in heating expenses.

The county project, which has been in the works for 20 years, is a realization of using local resources to heat the many facilities at the complex, according to George Maglaras, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners.

“For me, it’s a personal victory,” Maglaras said, adding he’s long wanted to have the system converted from electrical heat to natural gas.

Maglaras recalled how the county courthouse used electric heat after officials were convinced they would see a savings receiving energy from the nuclear power plant in Seabrook. After it didn’t pan out, he said other buildings were converted to propane in the past two decades.

Maglaras said using natural gas will save taxpayers about $100,000 to $150,000 in heating costs and reduce the carbon footprint of the complex, which includes the Strafford County Courthouse, Riverside Rest Home, Strafford County House of Corrections, Hyder Hospice Center and Covered Bridge Elderly Housing.

“We’re very excited about this project,” Maglaras said.

Assistant County Administrator Ken Robichaud said officials considered a variety of energy sources — solar, wind, wood pellets and methane from the Turkey Landfill in Rochester — before determining natural gas was the best option.

“Right now, we’ve converted all of the buildings to propane except for the jail,” Robichaud said.

Robichaud said the project, which costs $400,000, began about two weeks ago when workers from New England Utility Constructors Inc. installed the underground pipeline along an old road.

Robichaud said the county must select a contractor to connect the pipeline to the buildings, but the project is scheduled to be complete by September or October.

Unitil Corporation will supply the gas once the connection is complete.

Converting to natural gas provides a “significant economic savings,” according to Todd Black, senior vice president of external affairs and customer relations for Unitil.

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