PARKERSBURG - Cam Huffman, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Authority, updated county commissioners on a Kanawha County compressed natural gas fuel conversion project and reported a local company's expansion is on track.
During Thursday's meeting with county officials, Huffman requested a closed-door meeting to discuss what he termed "property opening up." The request for an executive session was granted by the commission, citing exemption nine to the state's Open Meetings Law as the justification. That provision allows a closed-door meeting to consider matters "involving or affecting the purchase, sale or lease of property, advance construction planning, investment of public funds or other matters involving commercial competition, which if made public might adversely affect the financial or other interest of the state or other political subdivision."
Following the 8-minute executive session, no announcements were made.
"The Kanawha County Commission is looking at converting to compressed natural gas as a fuel source for some of their vehicles. The is doing it in conjunction with the Charleston Area Alliance, their development group. They are, of course, hoping to see a savings. They are looking at retrofitting an old natural gas filling station in Charleston," Huffman said. He noted there is an expense to retrofit the vehicles, but there is also a large savings in fuel costs.
"Anything we can do to save money through investment, to save long-term. I think there are opportunities, I'm sure there are pros and cons to compressed gas, we can certainly look at it," said commission President Blair Couch.
"They are saying we can save 50 percent, if the county retrofit it would be more cost effective to do it ourselves, and we would need to work with the schools on it too," Commissioner Wayne Dunn said.
In Other Business
Commissioners approved appointment of Tim Flinn to take over his father, the late Virgil Flinn's seat on the Wood County Airport Authority.
He was appointed to serve out the term, which ends in June 2013.
The position had to be held by a Democrat so Tim Flinn changed his political party voter registration from Republican to Democrat.
He is employed by the Parkersburg Fire Department.
"We are looking at potential station locations, if you know of any, let me know," Huffman said.
According to information provided by Huffman, Kanawha County has a 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe that has already been converted to natural gas and is looking at other vehicles for conversion. The SUV has pipes and hoses that inject the natural gas into the vehicle's fuel injectors, the vehicle also runs on gasoline.
Wood County Assessor Rich Shaffer said at one time he considered switching his office's vehicles to natural gas. "The problem is there just aren't any natural gas filling stations around. If they could run on either that would be helpful," Shaffer said.
According to Kanawha County officials, they filled the tank for the equivalent of $1.89 a gallon. The converted vehicle is one assigned to the emergency services director. The conversion kit cost about $12,000, officials said. The vehicle also uses regular gasoline so it can switch back with just the touch of a button. The tank holds about 11 gallons of gasoline. It is bulletproof, fireproof and explosion proof, bolted to the frame to keep it in place in the event of a collision.
Officials said there was no noticeable loss of power or pick in with the vehicle after conversion.
Huffman said the Kanawha County officials are looking at converting additional vehicles and he urged the commissions to look into the possibility of converting some of their vehicles.
"It would benefit everyone," Huffman said.
In the same meeting, Huffman presented a proposed resolution relating to the expansion of Conley Fabrication in Mineral Wells.
"They will need industrial road funds grant, we've been working with them on that. The funds come from the state. I need a resolution from the county commission giving me the authority to pursue those funds as soon as we find out what the cost estimates are, we need you to finalize that," Huffman said. No county funds would be involved. The commissioners agreed to sign off on the resolution. Huffman said Conley took over the former Benson Truck Bodies. The firm earlier announced plans to build a new 45,000-square-foot facility on a 25-acre tract of land just outside Mineral Wells.