Natural gas costs prompt feedback

WAYNESFIELD — Approximately 50 people attended a public meeting Wednesday hosted by Waynesfield Village Council members regarding the potential of bringing natural gas to the village.

Craig Mescher, of Fanning-Howey and Associates, who facilitated the meeting held at the Waynesfield-Goshen Local School auditeria, gave an overview of the project, ranging from funding to an overall estimated cost breakdown for the project.

Mescher explained the funding for the project, which would require the village to take out an estimated $4 million loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The loan will require assessments on villagers over the life of the loan, prompting the most discussion and resistance to the project.

Mescher produced three options permitted by Ohio Revised Code to pay back the loan. The first option would assess equivalent dwelling units (EDU) (homes and businesses), which ultimately breaks down to a building on a developed lot, with a range of $400 to $500 a year, which would be assessed on people’s property taxes.

The second option would include all EDUs plus all open lots and ranged between $350 to $450. The third option would be based on lineal feet in front of the property would cost $300 to $400 a month.

The fourth and fifth option would allow for adding the rural community of New Hampshire into the plan and those two options averaged anywhere from $300 to $450 a month. In all, the estimates would result in an average of $25 to $42 per month over a 40 year period.

With a base rate for tie-in at $35 and an average usage cost of $30 per month, residents could expect to see a natural gas bill for a typical single family of four home to be approximately $65. No initial tap-in fee would be required as the service line would be run to the homes as part of the project. Ultimately, the preliminary costs with assessments and a the average natural gas bill would cost the typical home $100 per month.

Mescher said homeowners would see one-time costs to hook into the new system. In those costs included a 40-gallon water heater ($600-$800), a furnace conversion kit ($100-$150), a stove conversion kit ($100-$150), piping to the stove, water heater and furnace ($1,000). The general estimate for the one-time payment ranges from $1,000 to $2,300, Mescher said.

Mescher said homeowners could apply for assistance through CHIP, CIC or USDA to cover expenses for the one-time conversions, and explained that most in the village would qualify for the help and would have two funding cycles in which to do it. The applications are available at the Auglaize County Board of Commissioners Office.

Based on surveys, 61 percent of the homes in the village would qualify for assistance, Mescher said.

Randy Carter asked about the 25 to 33 percent variance in the assessment costs and asked when those numbers would become clearer.

“Its not possible to narrow them down much more at this point,” Mescher said. “We won’t have that exact cost until we bid it.”

He explained that based on current percentage rates, the village would borrow the money for the project at a rate of 3.125 percent, which is lower than the rate of 3.5 percent when the council first began discussing the project.

The audience provided a mix of support and disagreement with going forward with the project.

“I have been here for 85 years,” Joe Chiles said. “I think it would help a very few. If we can’t afford it, then we need to give it up. I hope this thing doesn’t pass.”

Another speaker, Sharon Ewing, felt it was an opportunity the village may need to take on.

“We had a chance to have AAP bring a factory here and we lost it because we didn’t have the utilities,” Ewing said. “When I first moved here this town had things going on. I don’t want people to move here and think this is a do-nothing town. We have to look to the future.”

Councilor Bill Motter argued that some people would not see the cost savings being predicted, using himself as an example. He said he was currently spending about $750 per year on propane keeping his home at about 65 degrees. At $100 per month for a natural gas bill, and assessments, that total would increase to $1,200.

“When do you stop on a family income that is $600 to $800 a month?” Motter said.

The discussion then went into other costs and how they should be figured in, such as supplemental costs of electric or other sources of heat. Village administrator Fred Rowe argued the costs and said the village is what can be defined as a “winter peaker.”

“Most villages reach their peak electric usage in the summer,”  Rowe said. “We are one of the few that are a winter peaker. It shows our peak usage is in the winter because of supplemental electric being used to heat homes.”

Rowe explained that the utility would make potential future growth in the village more likely.

“My goal is to have all 14 acres (of the industrial park) filled,” Rowe said.

A possible neighborhood revitalization program grant for $300,000 was also briefly discussed at the meeting, and surveys on projects were handed out to residents to what qualifying projects they may like to see be done. The village could qualify for up to $300,000 on the grant.