Village of Hamilton Considers Gas Utility

Public hearing planned for Feb. 14 board meeting

(Hamilton, NY – Jan. 2012) At its monthly meeting held Tuesday Jan. 10 the Hamilton Village Board of Trustees began the legislative process that could lead to the village establishing its own natural gas utility.

By unanimous vote, the board established the village as the lead agency for a required environmental quality review (SEQR) of the project, and reserved time at its Feb. 14 meeting for a public hearing on plans for the utility. The public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. in the Village Courthouse at 60 Montgomery St.

If the Board enacts legislation establishing the utility at its February meeting, as expected, village voters will be asked to ratify the legislation during a special referendum that could be held as early as April 17.

Similar in function to the municipal electric utility that has operated in Hamilton since 1895, a municipal gas utility would be the village agency that negotiates with suppliers, oversees the construction and operation of facilities to pipe natural gas into the village, and deals with gas customers.

Hamilton Mayor Margaret Miller said that a feasibility study conducted for the village cited three favorable conditions for establishing a gas utility: The ready availability of gas from major pipelines within 10 miles (Tennessee Gas Pipeline and Dominion Transmissionʼs pipeline both follow Route 20 north of the village); the presence within the village of three potential major users who have expressed interest in converting to gas (Hamilton Central School, Community Memorial Hospital, and Colgate University); and the village’s experience in successfully operating municipal utilities for electricity, water and wastewater and a municipal airport.

Village Administrator Sean Graham, who participated in the feasibility study, said that natural gas offers a variety of benefits for the village. Because gas is the least expensive source of readily available energy, converting would save operating expenses for users, he said.

Having the less expensive energy source available is also an attraction for businesses that might consider locating in the village, Graham added. And because gas creates fewer emissions than other fossil fuels being burned in the village, Graham said air quality will improve.

Miller said the project could be undertaken at no expense to village taxpayers, and would be financed by municipal bonds that would be repaid with proceeds from the sale of gas. She said village representatives would be meeting with interested groups and circulating materials to village residents in the coming weeks to explain the gas project in greater detail.

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