The Jenkins City Council voted unanimously this week to choose Pikeville-based Summit Engineering to design and implement the city’s plan to provide natural gas to residential and commercial customers.
Summit and another engineering firm, Kenvirons of Frankfort, made presentations acceptable to the council, but the proximity and number of Letcher County residents employed by Summit tilted the vote its way.
Tracy Goff of Jenkins made the presentation for Summit Engineering while Ed Brown, a former Jenkins resident and graduate of Jenkins High School, made the presentation for Kenvirons. Both companies have extensive experience with the installation of natural gas lines and both offered aid in obtaining funding for the project, as well as comprehensive designs, and professional supervision of construction contractors.
Goff, who also serves on the Jenkins Independent Board of Education, presented Summit’s proposal first and told the council Summit saw the project as being accomplished in several phases, starting at Gateway Industrial Park where a compressor station installed by EQT several years ago has two six-inch lines that are ready to be tapped onto.
Letcher County Judge/ Executive Jim Ward told the council that when EQT approached the court about installing the compressor station at the park, part of the arrangement had been to allow for a tap site for commercial users at the park and the expansion of residential and commercial service into Jenkins.
Goff told the council Summit has overseen gas line installations in Pikeville, Prestonsburg, and Martin County and also installed a system to trap gas at Pikeville’s landfill. He said the plan calls for low pressure lines in residential areas.
Summit employee Kevin Howard, who has done extensive work with the City of Whitesburg on water and sewer projects there, told the council Summit will approach the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency (RD) for initial funding. He said the RD funds would have to come in the form of a loan, at just over three-percent interest. The ARC funding would probably come from a grant that was pre-filed by the city earlier. Howard said the design itself would be simple, but the construction would be more difficult because of existing utility lines and pipes that will have to be avoided.
Brown, aided by Vaughn Williams of Kenvirons, made a similar presentation, but focused more on work Kenvirons has done with Lake Cumberland and Jamestown, where the company facilitated the installation of a completely new system similar to the planned Jenkins system.
Brown said the Lake Cumberland system tapped onto lines in Somerset and ran into Russell County for a new system. He added that since the initial installation, Lake Cumberland has made seven more line extensions and that revenue from the system allowed the last project to be self-funded.
Both companies told the council it would be a real advantage if the city had one major commercial customer to keep gas sales up throughout the year, as residential usage usually runs on a seasonal cycle with considerably higher rates of use in the winter.
Mayor G.C. Kincer Jr. said two natural gas service companies had been seen as significant users of commercial gas on the Gateway industrial site at one time, but that is no longer the case.
Both engineering firms also suggested that the city canvass potential residential users to see how many would want to hook on immediately or in the future. Both said the city should also should send out brochures to educate residents on the benefits of natural gas.
When deliberations about which firm to hire began, council member Rebecca Terrill Amburgey said she favored Kenvirons’ presentation because of the firm’s work on the new system for Lake Cumberland and added that she thought the start-up experience would serve them well in working with Jenkins. However, the other four council members all favored Summit because Summit employs several Jenkins residents as well as others who live in other parts of Letcher County. Everyone agreed that either company would serve the city well, but the final vote was unanimous in favor of Summit Engineering.
In other business, the council conducted the first reading of an ordinance (No. 236) that awards a 10- year franchise to Kentucky Power Company to supply electrical power to the city.