The project, aimed at chicken growers south of the city, would have required a massive loan from GMA and the sign-on commitment of every chicken grower along the proposed route.
That commitment, though, didn’t manifest, mainly because of a $100-per-month base rate fee that the city would have charged along that line in order to repay the loan.
“Not all the growers agreed to participate,” city manager Frank Etheridge said. “We did not get consensus from all of the growers that they would like to participate with that proposed $100 base fee. That was and is a sticking bump. Given that we don’t have everyone willing to participate, I would recommend that you not do the entire pro-ject at this time, but do a shorter portion — the first two miles — and that will pick up the first four chicken houses.”
In addition, about 20 residential homes fall on the two-mile route and will have the option to hook into city gas as well.
For the abridged project, the cost is much less, and would not include the $100-per-month base fee, which most chicken growers found bitterly cost-restrictive to their business operations. “We would do the standard rate that we charge everybody else,” Etheridge said.
The city is hoping to fund a portion of the cost of the truncated expansion project through the sale of old pro-pane tanks.
“The proposal is about $278,000 to do that first two miles,” said Etheridge. “We are proposing to take $78,000 of the money that we were paid for the propane tanks and buy that down to $200,000, get a loan for $200,000 from GMA at two-and-a-half percent, 2.52 percent, pay it off over seven years. That would come out to 2,599.62 a month over those 84 months.
“That would allow us to build into our territory. It would allow us to provide service to the initial growers, spe-cifically the grower who just happens to be the grower who all along has said they would sign up with us, even at the $100 fee,” said Etheridge.
The city hopes the project can continue in the direction of the original proposal, although it will take signifi-cantly longer, perhaps up to seven or eight years.
“We’ll do it a piece at a time,” said Etheridge. “We would break it down into what we could fiscally afford each year.”
Residents, especially chicken growers, who live closer to the Chattooga County service area, are questioning the length of time it would take for city gas service to reach them, lamenting the many more years of paying high prices for propane while being unable to be connected to gas through a city service.
For some time, residents near the county line have been wondering if Trion could more easily provide them with the gas service they need. Some claim to have received promises of such from the Chattooga city.
The council stated that, despite the residents’ proximity to Chattooga County, their land is still in the LaFayette service area, which cannot be crossed by another city’s utilities.
“Trion can’t do this,” said councilman Ben Bradford. “They know they can’t do it. So they can tell you whatever they want. ... It’s our area.”
Etheridge explained that in order for Trion to provide gas service to any LaFayette residents, an intergovern-mental agreement between the two cities would have to be struck, in which LaFayette would have to state it has no intentions of ever providing service to that area, which is not the case.
“We’ll eventually get down there,” said councilman Andy Arnold. “I’d like to.”
“We only can do what we can afford to do,” said Bradford.
The city council approved the project at its monthly meeting Monday, April 9.