Nancy Orr, Chamber spokesperson, introduced the guest speakers whose topic was the planned Sharp County Natural Gas System. Brown told members of the chamber that, in order to make the natural gas line a reality, the county needs 1,000 user agreements signed and returned to one of the city water offices. Currently, only 350 have been received. The natural gas project has been years in the making. Five years ago, the county was awarded a grant for a natural gas study. Weather disasters, such as the 2008 tornado, floods and the 2009 ice storm put the natural gas system on a back burner during the recovery efforts.
After being deemed not financially feasible by the USDA last year, a scaled down version of the system was proposed. The system has the support of the mayors of all Sharp County cities and the Quorum Court. Under the new plan, Brown said the number of people who sign up will dictate the size of the system. He said it would be built in phases, much like water systems.
The new system will be financed with revenue bonds, rather than grants, and will be operated by a county facilities board, similar to rural water and sewer system boards. According to Brown, there are currently six municipal natural gas systems in the state, and he made a trip to Harrisburg to review the system there. User agreements have been sent out to potential users in the county, both within city limits and rural areas. Brown explained the importance of returning the agreements, which do not require a deposit, like the first proposal. He said the difference is, users are asked to sign up for a seven-year period which will begin when the gas meter is installed. The purpose of the agreements is to ensure there are enough users to warrant financing the system, and to give an assurance that construction bond payments will be met.
Small users will pay either a $10 monthly bill, if they do not have many gas appliances and would not use much of the commodity. Larger users, who have furnaces and other gas appliances, will pay a $20 monthly fee. Both agreements are base prices with gas usage determining the final monthly cost, which will vary with each household. Because natural gas is a commodity, the price fluctuates. Since there is an existing natural gas trunk line near Evening Shade, the system will be able to connect to that line and run lines toward Evening Shade, Ash Flat, Highland, Cherokee Village, Hardy and, later, to Ozark Acres areas. Users are encouraged to return the agreements to make the project a reality for the county. Orr also announced the Ash Flat Christmas Parade, which is set for Dec. 3 in Ash Flat. Other topics of interest included the Light House Baptist Church in Williford's free Thanksgiving dinner for the elderly, to be held on Thanksgiving Day.