Source: Sherman Publications

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Consumers 90 applications short of goal

by Susan Bromley

May 02, 2012

Brandon Twp.- A final campaign to extend gas mains in the township is taking place within the next week as Consumers Energy officials push to meet a deadline of May 18 to have 221 residents signed up for service.

Residents of 150 households in phase 1 of the proposed project who were not represented at two meetings held last month can expect a call, visit, or application packet in the mail.

The latest project meeting on April 26 at the Brandon High School Performing Arts Center was attended by about 54 people, said Consumers Energy Spokeswoman Debra Dodd, and garnered 37 signed contracts. At the first large-scale public meeting on the project, held April 10 and attended by more than 300 people, 79 signed contracts were received by the utility company.

In total, Consumers Energy had received 131 completed applications and accompanying $200 connection fee deposits as of Wednesday. This is 90 applications short of the 221 sign-ups Consumers has targeted to extend natural gas mains.

"Hopefully, by May 18, we will have enough deposits to proceed with the phase 1 project," said Dodd. "This is something the residents wanted. We saw the need because we had been contacted. We hope residents respond, because they are the ones who told us 'We want gas in this area.'"

Consumers Energy announced in February a proposal to install gas mains in unserviced areas of the township in three phases. Overall, the project would offer service to 2,000 occupied structures.

Letters were sent to 442 households that would be included in the first phase of the project, inviting residents to the initial meeting. The first phase of the project includes Allen Road, Brandon Lane, Breezewood and Breezewood Court, Burris Road and Burris Court, Cook Trail, Harmony Lane, Ingles Lane, Kathleen Lake Drive, Lakeview Trail, Laughing Wolf Lane, Little Lake Road, Marsh Lane, McNaughton, Oakbrook Drive, Osprey Ridge, Reese Road, Sarah's Way, Sashabaw Lane, Sashabaw Road (south of Granger), Seymour Lake Road (east of Perry Lake Road), Shady Lane, Sherwood Road and Sherwood Court, a portion of Stanton Road, Thornridge Trail, Victorian Lane, and Wooley Road.

The primary motivation to switch to natural gas from other heat sources, including propane, is price, said Consumers Energy Customer Attachment Program Manager Dan Jones. The equivalent cost of natural gas against propane is 84 cents per gallon, including, he stressed, all charges from Consumers. He compared that to $2.19 per gallon for the average price of propane and points out that natural gas customers would save $1.35 per gallon.

Consumers will provide financing to residents at a rate of 8.06 percent over a 10-year period (for the gas main contribution, not to exceed $4,076.14 per resident); and Consumers will provide 333 feet of service footage at no charge with additional service footage being charged at a rate of $8.84 per foot.

The financing option would equate to a $49.59 monthly payment over 120 months. If a resident chose to finance the $4,076.14 gas main contribution for the full length of the loan, $1,873.96 would be paid in interest at the offered rate. Jones said there would no penalty if a resident paid off their loan early and financing would not begin until six months after construction is completed. He compared it to deals that offer "Six months same as cash."

Jeremy Kratt, of Hamilton's Propane said, "Hamilton's encourages anyone with any questions regarding this, please give us a call. We will be glad to answer any questions to the best of our ability."

Jones said that 221 contracts, or 50 percent participation, is needed in order for Consumers to move forward with the project. However, he said that if the utility falls slightly short of that number, they may still be able to proceed. He also raised the possibility that if the company fell way short, they would identify clusters of residents in the township to whom natural gas may still be offered.

Dodd noted that Reese and Allen roads currently have the highest participation in phase 1 in terms of signed contracts and those are the areas Consumers would be most likely to provide service if phase 1 doesn't go as planned. She added that Consumers would also still look at the feasibility of doing projects in phase 2 and 3 if 50 percent participation is not reached in phase 1.

Dodd and Township Supervisor Kathy Thurman remain optimistic that the goal number for phase 1 will be reached and the project will go ahead as planned.

"I'm getting a lot of appreciation for the effort to bring natural gas into the areas that don't have it," said Thurman. "I'm still optimistic we will meet our quota, but I would like to encourage people not to wait to get their applications back to Consumers."