W’field reviews natural gas plan

WAYNESFIELD — A total of 35 people showed up at a public meeting at Waynesfield-Goshen High School Wednesday to discuss bringing natural gas to the village of Waynesfield and the possible neighborhood revitalizations throughout the use of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.

Craig Mescher, a representative from Fanning-Howey & Associates, facilitated the meeting, which elicited far fewer questions than a similar meeting held Feb. 20.

Mescher told the crowd that a total of $3 million is available on the grant with a maximum of $300,000 available to the community of Waynesfield.Surveys on projects were handed out to residents to what qualifying projects they may like to see done.

CDBG formula money can be used for a broad number of projects to communities that qualify low to moderate income. While Auglaize County officials will not get notification on an exact amount until later this year, commissioners anticipate receiving between $140,000 to $180,000, with approximately $80,000 of that going to Wapakoneta and St. Marys.

A survey of village residents showed they favored money spent on improving properties and demolition of buildings as the top choice of residents, with street infrastructure, natural gas and electric, storm sewer infrastructure and sidewalk infrastructure also rating high.

Waynesfield Village Council members now must review the public’s opinions and determine which are most important and economically feasible.

“Its not as simple as picking the top of the list,” Mescher said. “Council has to also consider how viable each option is.”

Concerning natural gas, Mescher said councilors have decided to assess the work based on equivalent dwelling units (EDU) for assessments, basically taking the number of homes and dividing the costs for an average assessment with larger businesses assigned a higher EDU amount.

The average assessment currently is estimated at between $400 to $500 per home and would be collected on property taxes in arrears, meaning residents would get the switch without any payments the first year.

Current estimates show with a base rate of $35 and an average usage cost of $30 per month for a family of four, the average gas bill would be $65 per month and would be available on a budget plan.

Mescher said councilors are exploring options for EDUs that have less than average natural gas usage that may be hit harder percentage-wise due to the base fee.

The biggest cost for residents immediately would be a one-time cost to hook up to the natural gas system, which would range between $1,000 to $2,300 and would include water heaters, furnace conversion kits, stove conversion kits, and new piping.

Mescher said income qualifying residents would be able to apply for assistance from CHIP funding, CIC funding, or USDA loan programs. He added that because of the unique timing of the project, residents would be able to apply for the CHIP funding in two different funding cycles, giving more people opportunity to qualify.

Current timetables have the project slated for design phase between April and October of 2013. The project would be reviewed by the USDA and the village sometime between October 2013 and February 2014. Bidding and construction would occur between February 2014 and January 2015.