City Prepares for Natural Gas Conversion

     The Homer City Council has allocated funds to pay for natural gas conversion of city-owned buildings. The money will come from various reserve funds.

     The initial list of buildings was going to cost the city $540,000. But it was whittled down during Monday night’s regular city council meeting. The sticker shock for conversion of the fire station was enough for councilors to remove it from the list for now. Public Works Director Carey Meyer said there’s a good reason the costs totaled almost $200,000.

     “You’re basically replacing the entire heating system. Right now it’s a totally electric heating system,” he said.

     Plus, city officials would like to eventually have the police and fire stations housed together. So spending that kind of money on a building that might not be in city hands for much longer seemed like a bad idea. The police station conversion was about $42,000. Meyer said there are other buildings that will not be considered for conversion either because their use is in limbo, they may be getting replaced or the conversion wouldn’t be worth it.

     “I have taken the liberty of not suggesting that we run gas service to the HERC buildings. And I’ve suggested we not run gas to the harbormaster’s office since we’ll hopefully be replacing that soon. And we took a look at the ice house and didn’t see a very significant payback at all,” he said.

     Harbormaster Bryan Hawkins said the ice plant needs electricity for its functions and there is no way to actually convert any parts over to natural gas. Spit restrooms also were kept off the list for the time being because natural gas infrastructure won’t make it to the Spit until next year. The city will be able to add those costs into the regular budgeting process. The price tag for those conversions is nearly $36,000. 

     What did make the cut for conversions are the animal shelter, city hall, the airport terminal, library, and the public works building. That brings the total in the neighborhood of $225,000. Homer resident Kevin Hogan mentioned he still would like to see the city seek bids for work through a request for proposal, or RFP.

     “You’re putting the cart ahead of the horse here. I think what you need to do with this is to go out for RFP prior to appropriating the funds,” he said.

     Meyer said his department will work with a mechanical engineer to understand the scope of the conversions, submit applications to Enstar Natural Gas Company and competitively bid the conversion work. The city will be making the switch to natural gas over the next two years.