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Shores residents poised to finally get natural gas

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of September 28, 2023)

By week’s end, a half-year’s delay in bringing natural gas service to the Town of Indian River Shores should finally come to a close, and the dirt-moving, pipe-laying work of getting the gas from the main north-south line to homes and businesses on each side of A1A can hopefully soon begin.

Tuesday afternoon, the Shores Town Council was set to take a final vote on the new town ordinance containing the franchise agreement with a Florida City Gas subsidiary for a 20-year non-exclusive right to use town rights of way for natural gas distribution lines to serve residents with natural gas for cooking, appliances and emergency generators.

In August, the council voted 4-0 to approve the deal (one member was absent) and Town Manager Jim Harpring said he did not anticipate any surprises on the second, final vote, as the town staff worked with its legal team to obtain all the information needed and to address any concerns.

At first, the contract was only going to require one vote, but Town Attorney Pete Sweeney explained the town instead turned it into an ordinance, which by law requires two public hearings and two separate votes.

“By enacting the franchise agreement as an ordinance and codifying it, it provides both transparency and long-term clarity for the town. Also, as an ordinance, there is no question that the franchise is binding on all residents of the town. This provides additional clarity for current and future residents of the Town of Indian River Shores about the application of the franchise,” Sweeney said.

Town officials had hoped to have a deal struck and signed by March or April so pipe-laying work and the conversion of appliances could be completed over the summer months.

Many Shores communities want renovation and construction crews finished and out by October as to not impede the full enjoyment of narrow, oak-lined residential streets where people enjoy walking, cycling and using golf carts. But that summer rush of gas-line construction did not happen, and fall is now upon us.

Florida City Gas Senior Director of Strategy and Business Development Marc Seagrave said on Monday, “Florida City Gas is excited to serve the community and we’re ready to help neighbors understand the benefits of natural gas and sign up to receive service.

“We look forward to serving local businesses and residents in advance of the holiday season and beyond,” he said.”

John’s Island, the town’s largest gated club community, opted to wait until the town council had inked the franchise agreement to begin serious negotiations with Florida City Gas.

General Manager Mike Korpar had said the decision about whether or not to allow construction during season would depend upon the residents’ demand for natural gas.

Korpar last week said “we are meeting with Florida City Gas next week to go over the gameplan for the community. Once this is in place, we will then decide how to move forward with them and broadcast it to the community.”

Simultaneous to the franchise talks, the town also negotiated the needed easements for gas regulator stations to be located in out-of-the-way areas already used for utility infrastructure. Originally Florida City Gas proposed bringing in a series of portable gas semi-trailer units to store natural gas and supply residents before all the infrastructure was built out.

Several council members, the most vocal being John’s Island resident Mary Alice Smith, objected to giving Florida City Gas an open-ended timeframe to keep temporary trailers in use.

The trailer plan was abandoned, though a test case at The Strand went forward with that community contracting separately for an in-site trailer to get gas service right away last year.