JDA Approves Feasibility Study
The Rugby Job Development Authority board approved a motion at a meeting last week at Dakota Farms to partially fund a feasibility study to bring natural gas to the Rugby area.
The cost of the feasibility study is estimated to be between $25,000 and $30,000. The JDA voted to fund $10,000 of the total cost. The Rugby City Council tabled the study at its February meeting until the JDA provided input on it. The study would detail the costs of bringing in a pipeline or liquid natural gas distribution; a survey to businesses and residents; as well as the cost of the city forming a municipal utility or having a private company operate and maintain the lines.
Dave Blair, of KLJ Engineering, said the tabling of the feasibility study was a “good move” and that he wasn’t at the meeting to “drive the bus” toward a yes vote. Blair also said that the project could be funded in part through an infrastructure loan from the Bank of North Dakota with a 2 percent fixed interest rate, provided there is only one application filed and the cost doesn’t exceed $15 million in a biennium.
Nicolette Weissman, of the Bottineau County Economic Development Corporation, said an interim group working with the Economic Development Association of North Dakota found that several communities in the state were either not served or under-served with regards to natural gas. Weissman also asked if costs would be reduced Rugby and the communities of Rolla and Bottineau were to partner together on the feasibility study. Blair said that while there may be some savings, each city would be looked at independently with regards to feasibility studies.
JDA board member Fr. Tom Graner asked what would be the “nuts and bolts” regarding infrastructure for liquid natural gas. Blair said that a border station that compresses the gas would need to be built and transportation costs would have to be looked at as well.
JDA Executive Director Joseph Pelt said that some businesses looking at new places to start up do not want volatile markets, like propane and electricity, and that a plan should be looked at for 5-10 years or longer.
“Natural gas is the footprint for the future,” Pelt said.
Pelt said that after the February City Council meeting, he contacted MonDak Utilities. MonDak said they have no plans to bring natural gas to Rugby and recommended a feasibility study be done.
District 14 Representative Jon Nelson said the county could benefit from natural gas, as the Heart of America Correctional & Treatment Center, which is located in Rugby and owned by the county, is a large heat user and that some agricultural producers could benefit as well. Nelson also said that energy from coal has come under attack from new Environmental Protection Agency standards that are undergoing legal challenges. Nelson said that the standards could be fought in the U.S. Supreme Court and the best outcome could be a 5-4 decision.
“But five just died,” Nelson said in reference to late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Nelson said that by diversifying energy resources, a number of people could be helped.
“To me, it’s a no-brainer that we should go forward with the feasibility study,” Nelson said.
Pierce County commissioners Mike Brossart and Mike Christenson, respectively, asked what the average cost would be to residents and how the gas would get to homes. The infrastructure would cost $1 million to $1.3 million to build, and 2″ piping would go underground to residents’ homes.
Rugby resident and business owner Sue Steinke encouraged the JDA to approve the study and that the study also includes areas around Rugby as well.
JDA board member Nathan Kunde expressed a concern about the city forming a municipal utility being an expensive option, and asked if a board to oversee the utility would need to be formed.
Rugby Mayor Arland Geiszler said the city council will make its decision regarding the feasibility study at its March meeting.
“The chicken and the egg approach has to take place,” Geiszler said.
The board discussed the Director’s report. Items discussed included the Affordable Housing Board and building firms looking at lots on which to build a 10,000-square foot market space with lofts on top and a small community for persons 55 and older, respectively; a dry-cleaning pickup spot has started at Worn-A-Bit; interstate migration was a heavy topic at a recent housing conference.
The board approved the proposed budget, which was presented at the last meeting.
The board approved the January meeting minutes, financial statements and the treasurer’s report.
*EDITED FROM PRINT EDITION
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