Aug. 17–POTSDAM — Ten Brasher Falls residents attended a public meeting held by the Public Service Commission Thursday to offer their opinions and ask questions on a proposed rate change requested by St. Lawrence Gas.
The customers affected have experienced a temporary gas surcharge, which was supposed to end in November. The surcharge was to help fund an expansion project by St. Lawrence Gas that will allow them to provide natural gas for more customers. The expected length of the surcharge was to be five years.
Now, St. Lawrence gas wants to extend the surcharge for 15 years at a slightly lower rate.
The rate change would mean a 10.4 percent reduction on current bills for residential customers, 10.1 percent for commercial customers, and 8.7 percent for industrial customers, but the for some its still too much and not what they had expected.
“In Brasher, if I have a contract with someone, I honor that contract… I think you should do the same,” Mark Peets, a Brasher Falls town councilman, said.
The extension is deemed necessary by the company due to unexpected complications while drilling, according to St. Lawrence Gas representative Darren Wilson.
Superintendent of Brasher Falls Central Schools Robert Stewart asked what kind of research had been done before the project was undertaken.
Mr. Wilson said they took core samples and spent $1.2 million.
Other St. Lawrence Gas representatives added that before this project, there had been no other delays in the north county when putting in pipeline. They believed it to be an anomaly.
Brasher residents worried another extension might occur at the end of this potential 15-year extension.
“What’s not to say that the next 15 years that you’re expanding that you have a shortfall, and then we’ll need to pay for that too,” Mr Peets asked.
Mr. Stewart also worried how the potential gas surcharge would affect the school.
“Our estimates with the 15-year surcharge is we would be paying about $95,000 more over the 15 year period… For us that’s $95,000 less that we have to charge the taxpayers, or that’s two starting teacher’s salaries to a school that had to cut 12 1/2 percent of its teaching staff in 2011. For us a new teacher salary is golden,” he said.
A representative for North Country Dairy also spoke at the open hearing to voice how the proposed surcharge would affect them. Chuck Wilson, director of procurement for Upstate Niagara Cooperative, which owns the company, says that the dairy facility that uses St. Lawrence costs twice as much to operate with the surcharge than the other dairy facilities in New York and Pennsylvania.
“I also think that a 20-year payback on a 50-year asset … is a little unrealistic,” Mr. Wilson said.
Although people were upset, all were calm and simply wanted things to go well.
“We’re hoping it’ll all work out in the end,” one Brasher Falls resident said.
“We do too,” St. Lawrence Gas representative Kimberly Baxter added.
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