Bright Energy to expand natural gas service in Marengo
By Randa Wagner -
Natural gas line expansion and ballfield issues dominated the August meeting of the Marengo Village Council.
Bruce Jaynes with Consolidated Gas and Bright Energy made a presentation to council members about possible expansion of the gas line in the community to give homeowners another home heating option.
Jaynes noted the ‘significant price difference between natural gas, propane and fuel oil’ citing an example of usage comparison as: fuel oil $32.00, propane $22.00, and natural gas $13.00.
“We want to make sure people have an opportunity to get natural gas,” he said, and felt residents in Marengo have been misinformed in the past about natural gas fees. He said last year there was a meeting where Delco (water) tap fees were discussed and the subject of natural gas tap fees came up.
CE re-evaluated their tap fees because the actual (tap) cost was less than what they were charging, Jaynes said.
“Propane furnaces can often be converted to natural gas, and about 14 (households) switched over last year,” he cited.
Jaynes said the Big Walnut Fire District is considering connecting their building to the natural gas line and there was a discussion about the village possibly sharing in the cost of a pipeline from the village to the fire department. That prompted a discussion about the residents who might have been missed in the past.
Jaynes said last year CE raised the (tap fee) price to $975 from the previous $550 and they came back down to $750.
“That $750 is actually below our cost,” he noted. “So we’re definitely chipping in towards the cost.”
The way most utilities work, he explained, is they basically get the pipe out to the area and have the expectation the residents will pay for the tap fee to connect to the line. He said the $750 tap fee could be reduced a bit if two or more residents are able to make the same connection.
Jaynes said making that tap involves digging up the yard and converting or replacing the furnace. An advantage, he noted, was being billed monthly instead of a large lump sum, and raising the property value, since ‘it’s a less expensive method to heat a home.’
Another thing the company is looking at is pockets within the village that gas lines are not close to; so they are looking at laying lines to sections where four or five houses are grouped together, providing those homes with the option. That idea is still being discussed, as well as a different pricing structure to help alleviate the challenge of homeowners raising the initial fees.
The company is also considering running pipe outside the village on CR 26, CR 15 and SR 61 if there is interest from homeowners in those areas.
Council president Mike Baker asked how much it would cost to make natural gas available to several properties he owns. Because the properties fall within a standard measurement for tapping in, Jaynes said a discount of $150 per unit would apply in that case.
The question came up: what about boring and cutting in the streets (to lay pipe)?
“Boring is where you get into a challenge,” Jaynes acknowledged, “because the people CE used last year went out of business and the current borers available are talking about a rate hike of 2 – 4 times the old price ($600). The two quotes CE has received for boring work is $1200 and $2400.”
“I’m sure we could work a deal on the streets,” Mayor Robert Gale said.
The question came up of the monthly fee once a homeowner is hooked up to the line.
“There is a monthly meter charge of $9 regardless of how much or little you use,” Jaynes said. Another council member asked if CE sells furnaces. “Not anymore,” he responded.
Members of the Marengo Youth Baseball and Softball Association addressed council regarding the issue of leasing the ballfields from Highland Schools. John Baker, President of the MYBSA, said they believe it would make more sense for the village to try to gain the lease as long as the village’s intention is the same as MYSO. They would like to work with the village and approach the Highland School board to get some kind of long term commitment out of them. The Highland board is still obligated to pay for electric for the ballfields. Ross Porter said he has paid his portion to AEP but the school board still owes their portion of the bill.
“The intention of the village is to keep the property like it is so the kids have a place to play,” Mike Baker said.
“We have an agreement now to do the maintenance and take care of the property through this year and we’ll continue to do that,” said John Baker. “But it’s difficult to keep developing things back there without some kind of commitment from the school board. I don’t know that they’re going to give that to us but I hope maybe they can do that if we can work together. The big concern, being a volunteer organization, is if the wrong people get elected into the organization and don’t fulfill that commitment, then we’re stuck.”
“I think we all have the same goals in mind,” said Councilman Baker. “To get the school board to make a long-term commitment they’re going to leave it the way it is in the best interest of the community.”
“We’ve got some good people involved right now,” John Baker said. “There are some people putting together a league for next year. If we can make this happen with a commitment from the school board, the fields could be utilized through the end of October for 7 – 8 months out of the year instead of just 4 months out of the year.”
“I don’t know if the school board’s going to be able to go along with that, based on the agreement they have with me,” Ross Porter said, “with me supplying the sewer and water back there. A long-term lease agreement kind of violates what they agreed to on first-right-of-refusal to my organization. We all have the same goals though, keep that in mind. Everyone still wants to use it for ballfields. As it sits right now, though, they still have an agreement with me.”
Regarding another matter, Porter said he wanted to be on last month’s council agenda (to speak) but when he showed up for the meeting he found out it had been held the night before. Mayor Gale said it was changed at the last minute and posted the change [publicly] it in town at two or three locations in town, noting it was the best council could do, under the circumstances, to notify the public.
Porter asked to be put on the next four meeting agendas to discuss ongoing problems with his property (the former Highland West Elementary School).
A discussion took place about the recent power outage and the effect it had on the village. The question of whether residents should consider a more dependable electric provider was raised.
“All these alternate energy companies are just buying their kilowatt hours from [the original provider] and it still comes in on the same lines,” one resident remarked.
“If you drive around town and look at the transformers in town, many of them look old and discolored,” said council member Earl Bennett. “You go out into the countryside and look at Consolidated Electric’s transformers, they look very new. My estimate is Consolidated has, in the last 10 years, spent 10–20 million dollars in Marion and Morrow counties replacing equipment.”
“Would it help if the people affected by the power outage with AEP and the village itself to file complaints with the PUCO, stating they’re not getting what they’re paying for?” asked a resident.
“The PUCO deals with whether AEP is providing dependable service to the village, so, yes,” Bennett responded. “They do not deal with whether the village is going to be serviced by Consolidated or AEP.”
“The more people in Marengo and the surrounding area that file complaints in a timely manner, the more they’re going to start an investigation to try to resolve this issue,” the resident offered. Bennett agreed.
Mayor Gale contended July’s severe storm was unusual and the system is usually reliable.
In other business, the mayor said maintenance and repairs were needed on the wastewater holding tank and council had a quote from a company in Cleveland.
An application a resident submitted that needs to be addressed by the Zoning Board of Appeals was discussed. Mike Baker asked, “Since we haven’t been able to get a quorum for the Zoning Board of Appeals, can that application be turned over to the planning commission, so we can get it resolved?”
“There is an obligation to act in a certain period of time,” Weston said. “They’re supposed to resolve it in 45 days, and it’s been more than 60 days.
“Seems to me if we can’t resolve this in a timely manner, we should just dissolve zoning altogether,” Baker responded.
“Well, it is a new board,” Robert Weston said. “People said they could serve on it, and it’s got to be instilled in them the importance of it. I agree with you it’s got to function, but I don‘t agree we should dissolve it,”
“To correct the problem we need to talk to them; if they can’t serve we need to get somebody else,” Mayor Gale suggested.
“Well I think we need to fill the gap in our zoning book right now,” Baker maintained. “If, after 45 days, it doesn’t get resolved, it goes back to the planning committee or someone else to get resolved.”
“I’ll bring a letter next month to that effect,” Weston said.
The council approved the quote submitted by Mike McClain to track and update mapping of sewer and water tile systems in the village.
The next village council meeting will be September 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the wastewater treatment plant on SR 229, Marengo.