The decision of whether a natural gas line is installed in Tunkhannock now rests in the hands of the borough council.
At a meeting held with council members on Dec. 14, Don Brominski, Business Representative Development Director for UGI, outlined a resolution for approval before it will move forward with the natural gas line project.
According to Council President Robert Robinson, who attended the meeting, UGI is asking that the resolution be approved by Jan. 6.
“We told them that would be cutting it too close,” Robinson said. “It would be too early for us to make a decision, because we need more time to talk about it.”
Robinson emphasized no decision has been made at this time - that council is still talking with UGI and deliberating on the matter. The reason UGI wants the resolution by Jan. 6, he said, is to allow the company to apply for a $1 million grant from the state to pay for part of the cost of the project.
According to information filed at the borough office, the Municipal GET Gas resolution is as follows:
*No permit fees for the natural gas mains.
*$50 permit fee for individual services to homes.
*UGI will not pay for municipal inspector labor for restoration.
*Main restoration will only require a one-foot cutback.
*All rules apply for 12-year period, commencing after main installation under the GET Gas Program.
*UGI has the option to use PennDOT-approved core bore technology.
*UGI will be allowed to install gas mains in municipal road right-of-way outside of the paved roadway, as determined by UGI and Tunkhannock Borough.
*If the municipality paves the road within the 12-year-period, there will be no moratorium and the one-foot cutback rules still apply.
*UGI Utilities will be responsible for restoration for a five-year period after completion.
Robinson explained that the Dec. 14 meeting was the first time UGI approached the borough on the matter - despite the fact the company had previously been in contact with the Wyoming County Commissioners and the Chamber of Commerce.
“They should have come to us first, along with the municipal authority,” Robinson explained.
There are concerns, he said, because of how the installation of the new gas line will affect water and sewer lines.
If installed, the gas pipeline will run along Harrison Street, although it has not yet been announced how deep it will be placed. Another concern, Robinson explained, is UGI has indicated it does not want to pay for ‘curb to curb repaving’ of Harrison Street. Instead, the company only wants to pay for the section of the street is disturbs - the one-foot cutback.
When this was pointed out to Brominski, Robinson said, the UGI representative informed them that if council does not agree to the cutback, the pipeline will not be installed.
Robinson also expressed reservations about the possibility of UGI installing mains off the roadway along the tree lines. The borough may want to plant trees in those areas in the future, he said.
Council member Ben Barziloski also thinks things are happening pretty quickly - that they could use more time to consider the matter.
“There are still some hurdles to jump through,” he explained.
According to information provided at the meeting, UGI is hoping to get 740 to 750 customers in the area over the next 20 years to help recoup the cost of the investment. UGI will be paying a $50 hookup fee to install the gas meters. But customers wishing to hook into the meters will have to pay an additional cost, Barziloski explained.
Council member Dan Gay, who is also president of the Tunkhannock Business Association, said he is ‘enthusiastic’ about the idea of natural gas being brought into the area.
At the December council meeting, Gay stated that he heard only handful of businesses would be able to take advantage of natural gas being piped into the borough. But Brominski informed him at the UGI meeting that side pipes will eventually be installed to the main line, bringing natural gas throughout the area.
While he believes natural gas will help existing businesses - via lower heating bills - Gay said he does not think it will encourage the development of new businesses in the borough.
Both Barziloski and Robinson think a $44.90 monthly fee UGI will be charging to its customers over a 10-year-period is steep. UGI is allowed to charge the fee as another means of offsetting the cost of installing the natural gas line.
Robinson explained that new customers can agree to pay $3,177 up front to avoid paying the monthly fee. But many will not have the option of paying the money in one lump sum, and will instead have to pay $5,340 over the 10-year-period. Barziloski pointed out that customers will have to pay the $44.90, even during the summer months when the use of natural gas declines sharply or is non-eistent.
Council will have the opportunity to officially discuss the matter during its reorganization meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 2.