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Ground broken for natural gas project

Proponents of an initiative to deliver natural gas to rural areas of Logan County hope Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony at Benjamin Logan Schools ease skeptics’ doubts about the slow-moving project.

All American Energy Cooperative has received enough funds to install natural gas pipeline between West Mansfield and Benjamin Logan Schools and will begin construction Monday, All American Energy representative Ed Fleeman said. Natural gas lines will originate at County Road 142 in West Mansfield and travel west along County Road 26 encompassing Benjamin Logan Schools.

Benjamin Logan School District Board of Education members were joined by community members and others associated with the natural gas project at a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday. Pictured are, from the left: Gregg Norris, John Stanford, Ed Evans, Keith Stoner, Susan Allen, Lori Lytle, Eric Elliot, Todd Elliot, Bill Ramsey, Dr. Jason Robson, Robert Kuehnle, Sue Walls, Lloyd McNamee, Tim Rader and Diane Rader.

“The pipe has already been delivered and we’re ready to begin construction,” Mr. Fleeman said.

This first phase of the project utilizes 12.5 miles of pipe and will provide natural gas to 250 new members.

During the construction process, homeowners along the route wishing to tie-in may do so free of charge for the first 50 feet of line. Once construction crews leave, however, cost to tie-in to the natural gas system will be $3,000 or more, Mr. Fleeman said.

The supply and distribution system has been designed by U.T.I. Inc., of Groveport, under the direction of project manager Tom Wiesi.

Wenger Pipeline, out of Dalton, is the principal contractor for the supply line and the village distribution systems. Customer service line installation is being done by Stevenson Construction of Springfield.

It’s been more than two years since the idea of connecting natural gas to West Mansfield and Benjamin Logan Schools was first floated. An inability to secure enough financing to complete the project was the primary holdup.

Weather permitting, the project will be completed by early August, Mr. Fleeman said.

West Mansfield-area farmers Eric and Todd Elliot are two local investors. Mr. Fleeman said he was able to also secure private financing from Robert L. Smith, out of Cleveland, who is working with All American Energy on other natural gas projects.

School officials at Benjamin Logan emphasized their support for the project Wednesday. School board members, along with Superintendent Lori Lytle and Treasurer Robert Kuehnle attended the event.

Mrs. Lytle said the school intends to sell its two 30,000-gallon propane tanks, which are currently used to fuel the high school, middle school and elementary buildings.

School officials believe the money made from selling those propane tanks will make up for any immediate conversion costs, and the school will realize a dramatic decrease in its heating bills.

“We’re happy to be a part of this project to lower our costs, but also because natural gas will be such a benefit to members of the community as well,” said Bill Ramsey, school board president.

Currently, additional plans to distribute natural gas along County Road 5 and into Rushsylvania are on hold until additional financing for the project can be secured, said Gregg Norris, who has worked with All American Energy to facilitate support for the project locally.

Another $1.5 million or so is needed to fund that portion of the project, Mr. Fleeman said.

“Hopefully, as this project develops and nears completion more local investors will jump on board and we’ll be able to move seamlessly into the Rushsylvania phase,” Mr. Norris said.

The same hope holds for the DeGraff and Quincy phase of the project.

“We’ve been told we’re next in line after Rushsylvania,” said Sue Walls, a member of the DeGraff Village Council who has volunteered to get DeGraff residents to sign up for natural gas.

“Hopefully, seeing some activity will make people realize that natural gas is coming to our area,” she said.

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