Natural gas on the way?

WAYNESFIELD — Natural gas is coming to Waynesfield.

Waynesfield Village Council members approved an ordinance Monday allowing the mayor to enter an agreement with Fanning/Howey & Associates to move forward with design plans to bring natural gas to the community.

The ordinance did not pass unanimously, as councilor Bill Motter voted against the natural gas initiative. When a resident questioned his vote, Motter sited financial reasons.

“I am for natural gas,” Motter said, “if it is affordable.”

Prior to voting on the first reading of the ordinance, Motter and councilor Cheryl Jerew questioned Solicitor Bob Fitzgerald and Village Administrator Fred Rowe, wanting to make sure approving the ordinance did not tie the village into any commitments or allow Rowe or Mayor Mike Ridenour to enter any agreements with a natural gas provider without coming back to the council.

Councilors have several options to discuss was far as assessing the cost of the project and will spend the next several months considering all of those options. Options include assessing property by amount of land or doing it by parcel. The option of assessing only developed lots was also discussed.

Rowe told councilors the village would do everything it could do to curb costs for residents who were unable to afford the assessments for conversion and tying into the line.

“There is possible CHIP (Community Housing Improvement Program) money to assist residents,” Rowe said. “There is a program for those 62 years of age and older to get assistance. We realize the hardest hurdle for everyone will be the initial costs.”

Concerning the possibility of a natural gas utility, U.S. Department of Agriculture authorities determined the village would need to assess properties for an assessment bond to secure the money for the project. They said the village did not have enough equity in public assets to secure a $4 million loan for the project.

One citizen, Randy Carter, expressed the possible interest of a private corporation funding the project as an investment. Councilors plan to look into the suggestion and check its plausibility and legalities of the possibility.

Councilors held an open meeting Thursday at Waynesfield-Goshen High School for residents to discuss the proposal, with estimates that the attendance had as many as 100 residents. While response to the proposal was reported mostly as positive, concerns on upfront costs to pay for assessments has been one of the larger concerns voiced by village residents concerning the proposal.

Councilors again tabled the second reading of an ordinance putting limitations on farm animals within village limits.

Councilor Chris Kaufman provided council members with zoning regulations from Auglaize Township in Allen County for review sand possible adoption for the village.

“I know we might have questions,” Kaufman said, “But it is better than what we have now.”

The issue came to light in April when Police Chief Nathan Motter asked councilors to address the issue. Problems with clarity in current village legislation made it difficult to enforce the rules, Motter said.

Three properties within village limits currently violate the ordinance and have farm animals within the village limits.

Kaufman said he felt adopting better zoning regulations would better address the community’s needs concerning the farm animals in the village.

Ridenour is currently in the process of putting together a possible zoning board to oversee enforcement.