The Maine Attorney General's Office is investigating a contractor who seems to have disappeared after cashing checks from homeowners who had hired him to convert their home heating systems to natural gas.
Allison and David Ginsberg of Cumberland said they couldn't wait to stop heating their drafty, historic home with oil, and Monday was supposed to be the day Dave Ireland Builders hooked their home on Main Street up to the new natural gas lines Summit Energy installed last year. The Ginsbergs say Ireland cashed their deposit check for $2,500 in September, but never showed up to do the conversion.
He hasn't returned their calls or emails.
Cumberland Town Manager Bill Shane said he's afraid the Gingbergs are just two of many of unhappy customers.
"So far we have taken two to three dozen calls," said Shane. "I'm estimating that it's going to be somewhere between 100 and 200 families that will be impacted by by this."
Shane is asking all potential victims to contact the Cumberland Police Department and the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office.
"We're happy to receive complaints from people, find out how much money they're out, how much money they gave him, what efforts they've made to reach him and what the result has been," Attorney General Janet Mills said.
It's too soon to tell if any criminal charges will be filed.
Meanwhile, Summit Energy issued a press release late Monday stating that Dave Ireland Builders is an independent contractor and not affiliated with the company. It also said it would help affected homeowners by connecting them with other qualified contractors by calling its Augusta office at 207-621-8000, but did not mention the thousands of dollars homeowners had already paid for work that was not done.
This was not good enough for the Ginsbergs.
"We got this from Summit," David Ginsberg said, brandishing a folder filled with paperwork. The folder they picked up at one of Summit's informational sessions in Cumberland showed Ireland and Summit's contact information side-by-side under the banner "Partners in Energy Efficiency."
Shane says he hopes Summit offers homeowners some financial relief.
"Because absent help from Summit, they'll never have them as customers," he said.
What is clear is that the dream of converting to natural gas is now just a pipe dream for the Ginsbergs.
"No way are we converting to natural gas, said Ginsberg. "We don't have the money!"
They just ordered a 100 gallons of heating oil and winter hasn't even started.