Pontotoc aldermen to mull adding gas supplier

By Jane Hill

Daily Journal

PONTOTOC – Increased pressure from potential gas customers and decreased pressure in gas lines have Pontotoc aldermen considering whether to add a second gas supplier to the city-owned natural gas system.

Pontotoc Mayor Herman Austin said the board is scheduled to meet with engineers from the Cook Coggin Engineering firm of Tupelo at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 15.

One of the things the aldermen will be discussing is whether to contract with Cook Coggin to draw up plans to connect the city’s system to a supply line owned by the Columbia Gulf Gas Company.

Though the issue of whether to hook up with an additional gas supplier is not new to the aldermen, a recent cold snap underlined the potential for trouble if the city does not expand its system.

Austin said that some gas customers in the Randolph Community and farther south in Pontotoc County experienced low pressure in their gas service during a severe December cold snap. Austin said the gas shortage was due to the sudden high demand for the heating fuel.

Sylvia Cowsert, a Randolph Community resident, said gas service at her home got low during the peak usage time in December and people living near the end of the gas system lines in Houlka lost service completely for a brief period.

“They (city gas employees) got it back up fairly quickly and we haven’t had any problems this weekend, thank heavens,” Cowsert said Sunday.

Austin said that while the problems in southern Pontotoc County were quickly rectified, the episode of low pressure emphasized the fact that if the city plans to add new customers, it is going to need an additional gas supply from somewhere. Currently the city’s gas system serves about 6,000 households in Pontotoc and Union counties. Residents of the Furrs Community in eastern Pontotoc County have been petitioning the board to expand its gas service to their neighborhood.

“We had better do something and do it quick,” he said. “We do not want to get backed into a situation next winter where we cannot serve the customers we have or take on any new customers.”

Austin estimated that hooking up to the Columbia Gulf Gas Company supply line could cost as much as $1.8 million.

In September Austin proposed that the city issue long-term revenues bonds to pay for such a project and for other gas system expansions in the city’s certified coverage area.

Revenue bonds are paid for through the fees collected for gas service. As with all fee-based financing plans, the issuance of revenue bonds has the potential to increase gas rates. No estimates are currently available on whether or how much adding another supply line would affect customer rates.

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