Bluffton council considers old town natural gas option

achristnovich@islandpacket.comJanuary 10, 2012 

Providing all of old town Bluffton with the option to use natural gas is feasible if residents show enough interest in making it happen, according to an assessment done by town engineers and SCE&G.

Bluffton Town Council discussed that study Tuesday night after several residents approached it over the last year to inquire about natural gas hook ups. The assessment outlines the costs of pipelines and connecting about 300 homes and 100 commercial and municipal users in old town.

Residents living on May River, Tabby and Guerrard roads already have access to natural gas hookups. Additional pipes would connect Heyward, Lawrence, Boundry and Pritchard streets and Dubois Lane.

Installing those pipes would cost about $550,000.

"It's a manageable number," said Bluffton Engineering Director Bob Fletcher, "but it depends on how much residents are willing to pay out of pocket."

The figure doesn't include hooking homes up or converting electric or propane appliances to natural gas. That could cost each user anywhere from $500 to $8,750.

SCE&G could foot part or all of the $550,000 if enough residents asked for the service, Fletcher said. A third party or residents would have to pay what the energy company did not.

Fletcher said the council needs to understand how many people are interested in the grid before SCE&G decides what to pay.

"I have a feeling what (residents) really want to know is 'How do I get my electric bills down?'" councilman Michael Raymond said. He suggested the town also look into the costs of alternatives such as heat pumps to help residents save money.

Council did not make a decision on how to measure residential interest in the gas project, but Fletcher suggested they put a sign up sheet at Town Hall.

Follow reporter Anne Christnovich at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP

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