By Crystal Burns
The Gibson County Utility District (GCUD) Board of Commissioners made the final meeting of the year a brief one, working through the agenda in about 30 minutes. Topics of discussion included the CNG (compressed natural gas) filling station, financing on central units, and COVID-19 precautions.
General Manager Allyson Horner said she has been in contact with American Natural Gas, a company headquartered in New York, about purchasing the district’s CNG station. Horner said she sent station specifications to a representative, who told her that the biggest drawback for American Natural Gas would likely be the station’s location on Highway 45 Bypass in Trenton and not an interstate.
The CNG station opened in May 2015 and has received statewide and nationwide recognition for its “green” design and construction.
With concerns about volumes sold, the GCUD board asked Horner in a previous meeting to research opportunities to sell the station. In the district’s monthly summary and recap completed Nov. 30, GCUD showed 8,953 gallons sold and 4,852 gallons sold to others year to date.
After the meeting, Horner said the cost of gasoline, which dropped after the station opened, and the cost to convert vehicles to CNG with no rebates currently available have likely kept the station from taking off as anticipated. She said those factors have affected CNG stations across the country.
“It’s CNG in general,” Horner said. “It’s not just our station. It’s all across the country.”
Horner said CNG is still viable for companies that have invested in their fleets, but there aren’t enough fleets near the GCUD station to increase the sales. Still, Horner said the board is currently entertaining opportunities and has no solid plan to sell the station.
Central unit financing – Horner said the district’s promotion for financing on central units has worked well thanks to support of local contractors. Over the last 12 months, the district has financed 44 units at $192,000. Horner said for the third year in a row, the district sent appreciation cards with chamber cash to the contractors helping keep natural gas in local homes.
COVID-19 precautions – Horner said district leadership had evaluated operations in light of the rise in COVID-19 cases in the area and recent executive orders from the governor. Based on the current workload, Horner said leaders couldn’t justify doing a half work schedule that they utilized for a time this spring. The district has closed the lobby, and employees are strongly encouraged to wear face masks and social distance.
Horner said that the district has had 10 employees out or currently out due to COVID-19 or quarantining, but those absences have been staggered since March, making it easier for employees to step in to help their coworkers. Horner also said she doesn’t believe any employee has contracted the virus at work.
The GCUD board’s next meeting is scheduled Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 5:30 at the district office.