Let’s persevere until gas flows

“Perseverance furthers.”

Those two words from the I Ching, the ancient Chinese oracle and book of wisdom, could well be the watchwords of getting natural gas to Homer. As the new year gets underway, it’s critical that city and Enstar officials, as well as community members, continue to persevere in the process.

Decisions that will be made this month are key to ensuring that Homer residents get gas as cheaply and as quickly as possible. The Homer City Council will hold public hearings Jan. 14 and Jan. 28 on forming the citywide special assessment district, with the council voting on Jan. 28 whether to proceed with the construction of a natural gas distribution system for Homer. At some point, the council also needs to decide how to finance the construction. Currently, financing from the borough looks the most promising. 

Property owners within the proposed special assessment district have until Jan. 25 to file their objections.

If the special assessment district is approved this month — and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be — construction of the distribution system could begin in the downtown area as early as this spring.

But Homer residents can’t take anything for granted when it comes to getting natural gas. If you believe the city is on the right track, let them know. Don’t let the naysayers derail the project.

Both Enstar and Homer officials have gone the extra mile in making sure information about getting gas to Homer residents is readily available. People who still have questions should visit the city’s website at www.cityofhomer-ak.gov/natural_gas or email questions to naturalgas@ci.homer.ak.us or call the natural gas hotline at (907) 435-3198. Information in paper form also is available by stopping by  the clerk’s office at City Hall. Enstar also welcomes questions. You can email them to homer@enstarnaturalgas.com or call 1-855-889-7575.

As complicated as this issue is, residents don’t have an excuse for not being informed about this topic and how it affects them. Residents owe it to themselves to take a look at the information the city and Enstar have made available.

The big question on everyone’s mind is: What will it cost me? Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. But here are some components to the cost:

• Every lot in the special assessment district will pay an equal share of the gas distribution system: $3,283.30. That cost can be paid in one lump sum to avoid interest or it can be paid over 10 years. The city estimates the interest rate at 4 percent, so the assessment will be $405 annually. That assessment pays for the gas distribution system, whether or not you choose to hook up to gas.

• To get gas to your home also will cost you. Enstar’s 2013 rates are $1,290 for the first 100 feet of service line and $2 for every additional foot. Meters also must be purchased; the average cost is $200.

• There also is the cost of converting the appliances in your home. Those costs are specific to each home. Enstar plans future meetings to address requirements for converting to natural gas. 

The flip side of “What will it cost me?” is “What will it save me?” Like the cost question, the savings is unique to each homeowner. Some calculations show a 60 percent savings if you currently heat with fuel oil; there can be an even greater savings if you heat with electric or propane.

Will the assessment be a hardship to some? Yes, without a doubt. But the consequences of not making natural gas readily available to those who want it will be an even greater hardship to the community as a whole. Cheaper, cleaner energy is a must if Homer wants to thrive, and not merely survive, in the years ahead. 

Building the natural gas distribution system is a perfect example of how government’s help is needed in providing necessary infrastructure so that private enterprise can succeed.

In the public hearings scheduled for Jan. 14 and Jan. 28, we urge citizens to give the council the encouragement they need to persevere to see the natural gas distribution system through to completion — sooner rather than later.