Compressed gas station contract gets council’s OK

It should be by the end of the year when the public will be able to drive up to a fast-fill compressed natural gas fuel pump in Williamsport and fill’er up.

On Thursday night, City Council approved a contract for about $2 million with Beavers Petroleum Equipment, of Horseheads, N.Y., to install the equipment at the River Valley Transit, 1500 W. Third St.

Hopes are to start with fast-fill for buses and private fleets before opening up a public service area, said William E. Nichols Jr., director of city finance and general manager of the transit company. The design partners with the city include Gannett Fleming and Larson Design Group, he said.

The project cost is estimated at $6.6. million, with 80 percent state and federal government grants, while the remaining uel funds are available in the transit company, he said.

The compressed natural gas portion of the project doesn’t tap into the city general fund budget, according to Councilman Jonathan Williamson, city finance committee chairman.

When the project extends to a final phase – related to building a salt shed used by the city Streets and Parks Department and relocating the recycling drop-off center – that will be funded locally as will debt service, Williamson noted.

It’s the intention of the administration to work closely with city public works and finance committees, especially on part three of the project to prioritize with public works and with finance on the financing package and how to go about saving money by refinancing.

In terms of the expense approved thus far it will get the city to have fast-fill in place and ready to go with the four buses that will have arrived by the end of the year and the public service island designed in conjunction.

Councilman N. Clifford “Skip” Smith was assured of safety precaution in design and the lines will have the capacity should the public system gain in popularity. He wanted assurance the gas lines underneath Third Street will be large enough to handle more gas dispensers in the future.

The project design indicates two gas dispensers, but there is not enough money to build a third dispenser to provide a backup should either fail, Nichols said. “We’ve made provisions to add on,” he said.

The project includes modifying transit company buildings to be compliant to service and store alternative fuel-running buses.

Several foreign exchange students were in attendance and Council President Bill Hall told them about the national need to reduce dependency on foreign oil. He explained how the region sits on huge reservoirs of natural gas. He added the project is an example of a community reducing dependency on foreign sources of oil today.

He also wished that the experiment would spur the development of business to bring a gas station that offers compressed natural gas for the users locally.

“We hope there’s a great demand for compressed natural gas fuel because it’s not government’s job to compete with the private sector,” he said.