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DAYTON — It’s official.
The Tongue River Valley Joint Powers Board — consisting of representatives from Dayton, Ranchester and Sheridan County School District No. 1 — met for the first time as an official governing body Tuesday night after recently receiving approval from the Wyoming Attorney General’s office.
The board was formed to oversee the process of bringing a natural gas pipeline to the Tongue River Valley, offering a significantly cheaper energy alternative than diesel, propane and electricity.
Tuesday’s meeting was organizational, a time to establish officers, term lengths, meeting dates and locations, budgetary needs and professional services.
Board members, with their positions and term lengths, are:
• Peter Clark, Ranchester town councilman, Tongue River Valley Joint Powers Board chairman, one-year term
• Norm Anderson, Dayton town councilman, board vice chairman, two-year term
• Karen Walters, SCSD 1 school board trustee, board treasurer, two-year term
• Joey Sheeley, Dayton town councilwoman, board secretary, three year-term
• Randy Sundquist, Ranchester town councilman, three-year term
The Tongue River Valley Joint Powers Board has proposed to meet the fourth Wednesday of every month. At this time, the meeting location will be Dayton Town Hall, though that is subject to change. The December meeting was scheduled for Dec. 18 due to conflicts with the Christmas holiday.
The board unanimously approved a motion to ask each entity to contribute $2,000 to be used as “seed” money and cover initial expenses of getting the board up and running. Expenses include bonding, liability fees and fees for legal and consulting services. The board will establish a tax identification number and a bank account in coming weeks.
Board members also approved appointing Tony Wendtland as the attorney of record for the Tongue River Vally Joint Powers Board. Wendtland was present at the meeting and offers experience in pipeline construction and oil and gas. He has been the attorney for the Sheridan Area Water Supply Joint Powers Board since 2005, he said.
In other business, the board noted that a quick count of propane tanks in the valley found approximately 217 in Ranchester and 272 in Dayton, which is a good indication that there will be the necessary customer base to support bringing natural gas to the valley.
In October, the board met with consultant Steven Shute, owner of Pipeline Solutions, Inc., in Glenwood Springs, Colo., and Pinedale Natural Gas in Pinedale. Shute’s companies have been instrumental in bringing natural gas to small towns across the nation.
Shute estimated it will cost $3.5 to $4 million to complete the project and said forming a joint powers board and making the pipeline municipally owned may enable the board to receive state loans and grants.
While the cost to convert each household from propane to natural gas will range from $500 to $1,500, Shute said the savings in utility costs make the conversion worth it. He said propane costs approximately $2 to $2.50 per gallon while natural gas is currently about 72-cents per gallon. Natural gas is approximately one-third the cost of electric heat, Shute said.
The system will need at least 600-800 customers to be viable. Following the holidays, the board will send letters to Tongue River Valley residents to guage support for the endeavor.
At this point, routes for the pipeline have been discussed but not determined. A projected timeline for completion has not been set.