Natural gas moves closer in W’field

WAYNESFIELD — After hearing a brief presentation from the village’s engineering consultant, Waynesfield Village Council members elected to proceed with assessments to bring natural gas to the village — but not without objection.

This move brings the village one step closer to bringing natural gas to the village. Councilors now must decide on how they will assess property owners to help fund the project, which will be paid for the next four or five decades.

Two councilors — Cheryl Jerew and Bill Motter — voted against the issue and said they felt that bringing natural gas to the village would be great, but that many people simply could not afford the assessment.

“There are many people in Waynesfield telling me they like the plan, but they simply cannot afford it right now,” Jerew said. “There are 16 empty homes in Waynesfield right now. There are 10 for sale. With the effect this will have on landlords, this will cause people’s rent to go up.”

Jerew said according to what she was hearing, she felt a majority of residents felt the project was not feasible.

Motter echoed Jerew’s comments.

“You have a lot of people living here on fixed incomes,” Motter said. “They simply cannot afford it right now. I agree bringing it to the area is a good thing but I don’t think it is right how it is being done and we need to find another way. We shouldn’t be able to force it on people who don’t want it.”

Fanning-Howey Associates consultant Craig Mescher provided estimated figures of what the assessment would cost the average property for the assessment.

Based on what properties are to be assessed, and if the village chooses to expand those services into the New Hampshire area, annual assessments would cost from between $392 to $461, payable semi-annually on property taxes.

The assessment would be tax deductible. That averages out to between $33 to $38 per month. The average natural gas bill for a home is initially expected to be approximately $65 per month if natural gas is obtained in the village, so villagers will be looking at an average total bill of approximately $100 per month.

Opinions of councilors varied on if the move is in fact a savings overall for residents, with two members voting not to proceed.

A public meeting to discuss how property owners wish to be assessed was scheduled for Feb. 20 to discuss bringing the utility to town.

Mescher explained project assessments would not appear on a property tax bill until a year after completion of the project, giving residents a year to prepare to pay for the assessment.

Most village residents currently use propane, but other sources are also used such as electric and wood.

Councilors discussed and suggested comparing prices of filling up a propane tank and average costs over a year’s time to that of natural gas over the same period of time.

Mescher said income-qualifying residents will be available to apply for Community Home Improvement Plan (CHIP) funds to help pay for their assessment on a first-come, first-serve basis.