Lanett City Council discusses natural gas distribution

Published 11:00 am Friday, May 27, 2022

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LANETT — The Lanett City Council had a work session Wednesday afternoon to discuss a problem involving natural gas distribution in the housing units administered by the Lanett Housing Authority.

Daniel Trapp of the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia told the council that the Alabama Public Service Commission requires housing authorities to have someone certified to run the day-to-day operations of its gas system.

The Lanett Housing Authority did have a certified person to do this, but they recently retired, leaving no certified person to run it.

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The LHA has 328 units that are required by law to be run by a certified natural gas operator.

Tripp suggested three possible remedies: (1) hiring a fully qualified person to run the system, (2) switching to an all-electric system, thereby not needing a certified person in natural gas and (3) having the city take over the system and running it like the rest of the city.

Tripp said it might be best for the city to take the responsibility for it, but it was up to the council to decide.

Council Member Tony Malone said it might be best for the council to discuss this in an executive session since it did involve personnel.

“This just isn’t an appropriate forum to be doing this,” he said.

Trapp said it was a matter for the Lanett Housing Authority to decide but the city needs to know what’s going on because the natural gas is provided through the city’s utility system.

Lanett receives its natural gas from the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia (MGAG), the largest non-profit natural gas joint action agency in the U.S., serving 81 municipal members in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania and Tennessee who meet the gas needs of more than 250,000 people.

Tripp said there’s an ideal opportunity out there right now for the city to seek a 100 percent federal grant to provide natural gas improvements in its system. “

The President has signed the infrastructure bill,” he said. “It includes 100 percent federal funding for improvements in your gas system. It can help you replace the aging cast-iron pipes you still have in the ground in some places.”

Approximately $250 million is in the infrastructure bill for such projects.

Utilities Superintendent Steve Crawley said the city had approximately eight miles of natural gas lines that are in need of replacement.

“There are old regulators and leaky valves that need to be replaced, too,” he said.

The city is presently seeking the services of a grant writer. Louis Campbell has retired. The East Alabama Planning Agency in Anniston could serve in an interim period until the city settles on a new grant writer.

There’s an immediate need for an 80/20 grant to replace two transit buses used in the city’s senior and recreation programs. Police Chief Johnny Wood and Recreation Director Trent McCants are currently working on a grant that would enable the replacement of two city buses that are close to 20 years old.

“They need to be replaced every five years,” Wood said. “We need to get two new ones this year, two more the next year and two more after that to renew our fleet.”

If the grant is approved, it would cost the city $26,230 to replace one bus. The federal government would cover 80 percent of the cost.

Council Member Tifton Dobbs asked fellow council members what they saw as the next big project for the city. In recent years, the city has invested in improvements in the downtown area and at the airport. Dobbs said he had been seeing nearby cities making improvements in its parks and schools.

“I would like for the council to be thinking on these lines,” he said. “Perhaps we could do something along the river.”

Council Member Tony Malone said he has been working on a committee that’s been looking at that.

“We think this could be significant for the city,” he said.

Dobbs said there’s a big area of cleared land across South 8th Avenue from Lanett High School and wondered if it could be developed into a park.

This is near the site where pioneer settler William Moore built a grist mill, trading post and grog shop in 1820. Moore’s Creek is named for him.

Council Member Angelia Thomas said there had been talk at one time of developing the playground area across from W.O. Lance Elementary School. At that time, walking trails and a new pavilion were under consideration at the site.

Thomas said an immediate need was to get the airport up and running.

“Hopefully, we can get it going soon,” she said. “It’s a place where people throughout the area should go to and to see what’s going on there.”