PSC ap­proves nat­u­ral gas fran­chise for North East

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By CH­ERYL MATTIX

cmat­tix@ce­cil­whig.com

— The Mary­land Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion ap­proved a fran­chise agree­ment June 8 that will al­low Ch­e­sa­peake Util­i­ties to ex­tend nat­u­ral gas to the town of North East and west on Route 40 to Moun­tain Hill Road.

“I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate Ch­e­sa­peake Util­i­ties for lead­ing the way,” County Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Robert Hodge told Vince Fiorelli, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Ch­e­sa­peake Util­i­ties, at a county work ses­sion prior to the PSC ap­proval.

The re­cent PSC ap­proval will be­come fi­nal July 8.

NORTH EAST

“We are ready to start tak­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for new cus­tomers in the North East area,” Fiorelli said.

The fran­chise ap­proval with the town of North East was the miss­ing link needed to con­tinue ex­tend­ing nat­u­ral gas lines west of Me­chan­ics Val­ley Road on Route 40, which is the county’s des­ig­nated growth cor­ri­dor for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

The town of North East ap­proved the fran­chise agree­ment in Fe­bru­ary af­ter nearly two years of ne­go­ti­a­tions were re­solved with as­sis­tance from Coun­cil­man Alan McCarthy.

“I think this is the best deal for us,” McKnight said in Fe­bru­ary when the town board unan­i­mously proved the fran­chise.

Ch­e­sa­peake Util­i­ties com­pleted ex­ten­sion of a 12-inch gas line from Not­ting­ham Road on Route 40 west to Me­chan­ics Val­ley Road on Route 40 two years ago. Mean­while, it has ac­quired cus­tomers along the line, most re­cently sign­ing up Royal Farms at the cor­ner of Route 40 and Me­chan­ics Val­ley Road.

“Busi­nesses and homes can reap sig­nif­i­cant fuel sav­ings by con­vert­ing from oil or propane to nat­u­ral gas,” Fiorelli said.

He is cur­rently work­ing with the Home­own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion at Courts of Mal­lory, a res­i­den­tial com­mu­nity off ap- Me­chan­ics Val­ley Road near Route 7, to ac­cept ap­pli­ca­tions from home­own­ers.

“I’ve also talked with the schools and some of the busi­nesses,” he said, not­ing that sev­eral busi­ness own­ers are in­ter­ested in get­ting nat­u­ral gas to their prop­erty.

“Woody’s in North East, Gary Ste­wart, owner of Prin­ci­pio Busi­ness Park, and Jim Whit­ter, man­ager at Quikrete plant on Moun­tain Hill Road, are all very in­ter­ested,” Fiorelli said.

How­ever, Fiorelli cau­tioned that a project of this size takes months of work, even years some­times.

“Our goal is to ac­quire as many cus­tomers as we can to make this project fi­nan- cially fea­si­ble,” he said.

Ch­e­sa­peake Util­i­ties has a fi­nan­cial model it ap­plies to new projects once it de­ter­mines the con­struc­tion costs that is geared to a sixyear rate of re­turn.

“We’re crunch­ing num­bers right now,” he said.

An­other gas line ex­ten­sion project re­cently com­pleted by Ch­e­sa­peake Util­i­ties brought a line from Mid­dle­town, Del., to Warwick Mush­room Farm — a 4.5 mile ex­ten­sion that cost about $1 mil­lion, which is be­ing paid for by the util­ity com­pany based on an es­ti­mated rate of re­turn on in­vest­ment.

“Con­struc­tion costs can vary be­cause of soil types, rail­road cross­ings and ma­jor in­ter­state cross­ings,” he said. “Warwick Mush­room’s ad­di­tion of nat­u­ral gas is a suc­cess story that will help them save money.”

Fiorelli ex­plained the com- pany needs to con­nect users all along the route in order to make it pay for it­self.

“We’ll start at Me­chan­ics Val­ley Road and work west on Route 40 and into town,” he said.

“Ce­cil Col­lege and Penin­sula In­dus­trial Park are also in­ter­ested in get­ting nat­u­ral gas,” said Fiorelli, who said chal­lenges will be get­ting per­mits to cross the rail­road tracks and to cross I-95.

The com­pany has fu­ture plans to go north and south on Route 272 and west on Route 40.

“Once the spine is com­plete, we can go off of it,” he said.

The com­pany’s goal is to be com­plete to Prin­ci­pio Busi­ness Park by March or April 2017 to serve at least three new busi­ness users com­ing to the park.

“This project should be ex­tremely ben­e­fi­cial to all,” Fiorelli said.

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