Sheridan County School District 1 Business Manager Jeremy Smith presented to legislators at Wednesday’s Legislative Forum about the efforts of the Tongue River Valley Joint Powers Board to bring natural gas to Dayton, Ranchester and SCSD 1 schools in the valley.
Smith is not on the joint powers board but was elected to represent it at the forum. All five members of the board – two each from Ranchester and Dayton town councils and one from the school board – were all present to offer support.
Smith said the purpose of the board is to bring natural gas to the area, which could significantly reduce heating costs for residents. He said research has shown households currently using propane or electricity could potentially save $1,000 per year on heating costs by converting to natural gas.
It would take approximately $4 million to bring natural gas to the valley, Smith said.
Smith’s main objective was to ask for the help of the legislators in getting statutory language changed.
Since the natural gas board is a public entity, it is technically allowed to apply for State Loans and Investments Boards grants for its project, as well as loans specifically tailored for joint powers boards.
However, the language in the statute does not expressly permit funding for natural gas systems, so it would need to be changed to include natural gas as a fundable option.
Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn, has sponsored the bill to change the language and said Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, and Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, have signed on as co-sponsors. She announced that the bill was officially assigned a number – House Bill 47 – and added to the docket for consideration today.
If successful, the system would be the first natural gas line to be owned by a public entity in Wyoming and could offer options for other communities to pursue similar endeavors.