PUCO approves plan to bring natural gas to Belpre

Belpre City Council members, from left, Judy Drake, Donna Miller and Susan Abdella listen to reports at Monday’s council meeting. (Photo by Wayne Towner)

BELPRE — Hopeful news has been received regarding a plan to address a bottleneck in supplying natural gas service to the Belpre area, according to Mayor Mike Lorentz.

At Monday’s meeting of Belpre City Council, Lorentz said he received word from Ohio Rep. Jay Edwards, R-94th District, on Friday that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has approved a plan that will improve and expand the natural gas infrastructure between Belpre and Marietta.

Edwards attended the Feb. 25 council meeting to announce plans by PUCO to consider the proposed project by Dominion Gas. The project will result in an upgrade to the infrastructure serving the Belpre community.

Additional residential and commercial development has been slowed for the last few years because the current natural gas infrastructure serving Belpre is at capacity, officials said.

The city has experienced problems getting approval for new home and commercial construction and development because of the lack of available natural gas service. At the February meeting, Edwards said Dominion Gas is expected to invest $8 million-$10 million in new piping and possibly a pumping station to improve the amount and pressure of natural gas which can be provided to the Belpre area.

Lorentz said he contacted Dominion on Monday and no details were available regarding the project, its dimensions or timeline but he hopes to hear more about it in the coming weeks.

Council approved the second and third readings of the annual appropriation ordinance for calendar and fiscal year 2019 to finalize the municipal budget. The 2019 budget remains similar to the 2018 budget with a total of $4,045,184.23, with no big changes, according to council member Susan Abdella, chair of the finance and audit committee of council.

In other business, council approved the final reading of the city’s annual manpower ordinance, which sets the number of employees the city can have.

First readings were approved for resolutions on contracts for dog warden services, Belpre Senior Center management and participation in the Ohio Department of Transportation road salt program, with additional readings at future meetings. Two readings were approved on a resolution to enter into the annual Community Housing Impact and Preservation (CHIP) program partner agreement with the Washington County Commission, with the final reading to occur at a future meeting.

In answer to a question from council at a prior meeting, Lorentz provided an update on the city’s grant status. A total of $21,541.27 in grants applied for by the city have been approved since May 1, 2018. An additional $38,790 in grant applications have been submitted for which no decision has been returned, he said.

Committee meetings have been scheduled:

∫ The economic development committee will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday.

∫ The parks and recreation committee will meet at 6 p.m. April 3 to discuss the municipal pool. Council member Elmer Lee Shutts said the pool will be open this summer but its future beyond that is uncertain due to the costs associated with its maintenance and operation and the issue needs to be discussed and options found to address that problem down the road.

∫ The finance and audit committee will meet at 7:15 p.m. April 8 to discuss the resolutions which received first reading Monday.