MALONE - The heads of St. Lawrence Gas were in Franklin County Thursday to announce to county legislators that their project to extend a natural gas pipeline into the county's north end is finally set to become reality.
"So the project is officially a go," said Jim Ward, St. Lawrence Gas's assistant general manager. "Been waiting to say that for a number of years."
Ward told legislators the company's plan to stretch their pipeline 48 miles, from the town of Stockholm in St. Lawrence County to the village of Chateaugay in Franklin County, is about to begin after his company got the official go-ahead in July from the state Public Service Commission.
The project has hit a number of roadblocks along the way, including in February when Ward and Jim Nubel, another representative of St. Lawrence Gas, told legislators in Franklin County that the price tag for the extension shot up by about $9 million when they looked at bids. The county has committed about $1.3 million to the project.
But since getting approval from the state, Ward said the company is moving ahead. It is now ordering pipes and getting them delivered, and planning to start construction the second or third week of August.
The plan is to extend into Malone by the end of December and to connect to the local prisons and the Brushton-Moirah school this year.
"We're really dependent on weather right now," Ward said.
Legislators said they're looking forward to the project saving energy costs for local businesses, residents and other entities like the prisons in that part of the county. They said they expect the project to keep jobs in the county, like at the McCadam Cheese factory in Chateaugay, and they also hope it will encourage businesses to expand or move to the area.
"We're opening up this county, and it's good," said Legislator Guy "Tim" Smith, D-Fort Covington.
"This project is huge - it is huge - for this county," said Legislator David "Billy" Jones, D-Chateaugay. "I think we're going to see the ramifications of it for years to come."
Legislator Paul Maroun, R-Tupper Lake, said the natural gas pipeline will never extend south into the Adirondack Park, but despite that, he and Saranac Lake's representative on the board, Democrat Tim Burpoe, have been in support of it. That's because they recognize the importance of it to the whole county and the indirect benefits it could have by encouraging economic growth in the county, Maroun said.
He said he hopes the north-end legislators remember that in the future when projects that are important to the south end of the county come up.
"We all want to have a mutual, vice-versa understanding for the future," Maroun said.
Nubel told legislators the biggest part of the project for them is the residential and small commercial customers. He said it's possible the company will connect some residences this year, but if not, that's the main focus for next year.
Ward noted that the project will not only have a big impact on Franklin County residents and businesses, but also on his company.
"It really changes the scale of St. Lawrence Gas," Ward said.
He thanked legislators for pushing for the project.
"Without your support, the project would have never gotten off the ground," Ward said.
Board Chairman Gordon Crossman, D-Malone, said Smith and former county Manager Jim Feeley, who retired in 2011, were integral to getting the pipeline going.
Franklin County has been asking St. Lawrence County to contribute $600,000 to the project, but so far, lawmakers there have declined to help out.