While construction crews continue to work on the natural gas trunk line into Homer, Enstar Natural Gas Company is focused on building a gasline network throughout the Homer Special Assessment District. At a workshop Friday morning at the Kachemak Community Center, new gas customers were signing up for the service.
The first face to greet people at Friday’s gasline workshop was Joanne Kohler, Business Development Supervisor for Enstar’s Anchorage office.
"Basically, I'm just taking down their pertinent customer information," said Kohler. "Then, once they're done with that, they'll sit with a marketing representative and they will tell them how much it's actually going to cost to hook up to gas."
Kohler says that people today are applying for the service line, which has a flat cost of $1,290. After that comes the meter cost, which can vary depending on the amount of natural gas a home or business expects to use. When you add in the expense of new heaters and appliances, the costs of conversion start to add up.
But the energy savings is expected to more than make up for that.
Enstar estimates monthly energy savings of about 60 percent for average homeowners presently relying on fuel oil. For propane users, that savings jumps to almost 80 percent, according to Enstar’s figures.
Kohler says people are asking lots of general questions about hooking up their meters, new appliances and more.
Large maps on the wall show the borders of the Homer Special Assessment District, broken down into Phase One and Phase Two. Construction for Phase One is taking place this year. It covers the core area of downtown Homer from the Hillside Acres subdivision out west to the Jack Gist Park area. In 2014, gaslines will expand out to the Homer Spit, as well as the Skyline Drive area.
In the back of the room, Mark Pfeil of VBS Heating in Homer had a table set up with information about various brands of natural gas-fueled heaters and appliances.
Pfeil says that people who are currently using fuel oil-powered appliances will have to buy new natural gas-friendly equipment while most people who use propane heaters and appliances will likely be able to convert them to natural gas.
Pfeil cautions homeowners not to attempt to convert appliances on their own. He says VBS is anticipating a big jump in business due to the gasline buildout but the company does not intend to hire extra employees at this time.
Some folks attending the workshop Friday came in with reservations about converting to natural gas. Mossy Kilcher is the owner of Seaside Farm, a large property out East End Road that serves as a working farm, as well as a hostel for visitors.
Kilcher says her main house and handful of guest cabins are so far away from the main road – more than 1,000 feet – that she feels she won’t be able to afford to hook up to natural gas.
"I could use it but I would also have to reconfigure all of my utilities in all the cabins and everything," she said. "It would be cost-prohibitive for me at this time."
Kilcher is more concerned that the construction of the gas network doesn’t do any damage to her property.
Pete Roberts is a cheerleader for gasline development in Homer, even though his East End Road property is outside the boundaries of the special assessment district. Roberts has put together an organizational meeting next week at the Kachemak Community Center to try to get East End residents to form their own assessment district.
Roberts points to the energy savings that Anchor Point residents are already experiencing. He says he doesn’t understand why some Homer residents continue to oppose development of the natural gas network.
"If people aren't willing to get off the cart and pull it out of the ditch, they're going to have real expensive heat," said Roberts.
Enstar is planning another similar workshop next month at the Best Western Bidarka Inn, although no date has yet been set.