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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


County Hears pros and Cons of Natural Gas Switch

The Price of Gas

Likely cost by appliance for converting to natural gas, according to the engineers engaged by Eastern Shore Gas:

Range: $85

50 gallon hot water tank: $1,100

Furnace (80,000 and 100,000 BTU): $120

Furnace (120,000 BTU): $400

Dryer: $85

Patio heater: $70

Gas logs: $85

House piping: $2,000

Swimming pool heater: $349

Space heater: $105

Instantaneous hot water: $2,500

Grill: $349


SNOW HILL — Steve Ashcraft, vice president and general manager of Eastern Shore Gas Co., testified before the Worcester County Commissioners on the possible costs associated with his company’s potentially becoming the natural gas distributor for Northern Worcester County.

While he said the price of natural gas was half of the propane his company sells, he said the conversion costs would erode some of that savings, but he didn’t know how much.

“It definitely won’t be half price,” he said. “We don’t have all the estimates done yet.”

He warned that natural gas leaks could be a problem and that construction could be completed in five years at a “multi-million dollar” cost to his company. Ashcraft said his staff was still working on projections.

The costs, he pointed out, would have to be passed along to the customers likely almost negating the savings. Under questioning by county attorney Sonny Bloxom Ashcraft said that there will be immediate savings for conversion but return on customers’ initial investment will take longer.

Ashcraft also said that the county permitting process might not be adequate to meet the demand. “Five years might seem like a long time, but somebody’s going to be first and somebody’s going to be last,” he said. “We’re hopeful that the savings will be enough that people will make that choice.”

Chesapeake Utilities, the competing distributor for natural gas, did not testify. Bloxom asked for assurances from Ashcraft given that Chesapeake Utilities was also applying to be a distributor in the area, that his company would move swiftly once the pipeline reached Worcester County.

“Calculations are being made on the alternative side and [the commissioners] have to decide which is best for the county,” Bloxom said.

Ashcraft said that within one year after natural gas is available in the county Eastern Shore Gas could begin converting homes in Ocean Pines. He promised to give the commissioners a section by section timeline with his proposal.


Lottery Funds

Ed Tudor, director of the Worcester County Department of Development Review and Permitting, presented the county commissioners with a draft plan for use of lottery funds  to be submitted to the Local Development Council. Among the provisions are to funnel money primarily into education and job training, public safety, and infrastructure improvements necessitated by the increased expected traffic the Casino at Ocean Downs will generate.

In Tudor’s memo it is suggested that, while the county should be prepared because of the current governmental structure, public facilities, services, and improvements and gambling addiction programs will remain for the most part privately and state funded respectively. While the draft will require a refining process after the LDC reviews it, the commissioners endorsed the draft.


Mystic Harbour

Last month, Worcester County Public Works Director John Tustin announced the cost of the new Mystic Harbour wastewater treatment plant will be closer to $12 million rather than the originally anticipated $8 million. Although they will be able to receive an additional $4 million in government grants, quarterly water bills in the service area will increase from $32 to $48 per quarter. The commissioners passed the measure including the increase.

Frank Foley, president of the Mystic Harbour home owners association, said that for the entire 20 years he’s lived in the subdivision he’s been disappointed by a continuing odor, about which he’s petitioned the commissioners regularly.

Given the passing of the improvement, Foley thanked the commissioners and staff for all the work they’ve done toward solving the problems.

“Everybody deals openly with each other in an effort to solve the problem,” he said. “It’s the greatest thing in the world when you can get direct involvement with your people.”

Replacement and maintenance costs when compared with purchase prices compelled Tustin to recommend the county cease purchasing bio-diesel in favor of ultra low sulfur fuel. The commissioners endorsed the recommendation.


HVAC System

Tustin also requested the planned replacement of the HVAC system in the Berlin offices of the Worcester County Health Department. The $60,000 expense will be applied to this year’s budget and deducted from the requested fiscal 2012 budget. The commissioners granted his request.


Hot Boards

The commissioners approved the annual lease for the Health on the Boards (Hot Boards) apartment for health department use for the 2011 season. 

Hot Boards is a health department program providing health assessments for minors arrested for minor offenses. The lease price has remained the same as last year, $8,500 and is funded by an Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration grant.