Bovard residents frustrated proposed gas hookups fizzle
Several Bovard residents in Hempfield are frustrated because gas hookups suggested in 2017 have yet to come to fruition.
As part of the Peoples Gas initiative Go With Gas, gas lines were to be extended into three Westmoreland County communities — including Bradenville in Derry Township and Claridge — giving residents the option to convert appliances like electric ranges, water heaters and furnaces to gas. Projects were proposed in Davidsville in Somerset County; and East Conemaugh Borough, Lilly Borough and East Taylor Township in Cambria County.
But, at least for now, Go With Gas has been put on hold as officials reevaluate the program to see if they can reach more groups of people, said Barry Kukovich, director of community relations.
“It frustrated me that they came here and they led us to believe this was all going to happen and it never happened,” Bovard resident Carol Badgley said.
The way the program works now, the gas company pays for new gas lines and home meters, but residents must pay to convert appliances, which “are pretty high costs,” Kukovich said.
Officials at Peoples Gas were waiting for House Bill 107, which would make it easier for residents to receive help covering the costs of converting, but it did not pass last year’s session, said Bill Patton, press secretary for the Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus. The bill was proposed by state Rep. Bob Godshall, R-Montgomery, who retired at the end of last year.
Now, officials are looking at other options that could be decided by the end of the year.
“Some of the things we would consider is we would take a look at a community and if they could not afford appliances we might go out and look for an appliance provider,” Kukovich said, suggesting buying in bulk for lower costs. “When the program first started we looked at those (options), although usually the provider would have to be pretty close to the community.”
When the project was first proposed in Bovard, 50 people were required to register. Kukovich could not confirm how many signed up in the community but said people often do not express interest because of the cost of purchasing gas appliances.
Badgley said several people were interested in converting to gas on her street, but some were confused by the process.
“A lot of people assumed that you had to have gas appliances already and they don’t want to go out and spend $800 on a stove when you bought a new stove six months ago,” she said, adding confusion could have been averted if officials had visited homes and explained the situation.
“I think you need to ask the neighbors, ‘Do you want the gas hookup?’ They just didn’t understand it. It was going to be a long-term thing you could get hooked up later,” she said.
According to the Peoples Gas website, once a community expresses interest in the project, officials from the gas company work to extend existing gas lines, moving from street to street in the municipality. House lines would then be installed, along with a customer service line.
Connections to converted or new appliances would then be completed.
According to Bovard resident Dan Bartosh, 37, the biggest frustration was a lack of communication between the company and interested residents.
“I was under the impression that the entire town was ready to go,” the Prisani Street resident said. “I’m holding off buying new appliances for my house and rental property hoping the gas would be here soon.”
Regarding the re-evaluation of the project to reach more residents, Kukovich said, “We work with the community in a lot of different ways. It’s really in our DNA to do something like that.”
At least eight projects have been completed under the program, according to the website, including Unity Township, Hillside in Derry Township and Penn Township’s McCullough in Westmoreland County; Colver, the borough of Nanty-Glo and Gallitzin Township in Cambria County; the borough of Ernest in Indiana County; and Friedhoff Lane, located in Conemaugh Township in Somerset County.
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .