DAYTON — Dayton, Ranchester and Sheridan County School District 1 are hoping there will be strength in numbers as they join together to try to bring natural gas service to the Tongue River valley.
All three entities have passed an agreement to form a joint powers board that will do the necessary leg work to make a natural gas pipeline a reality.
“Natural gas has always been a desire of the valley,” Ranchester Town Engineer Chris Johnson said. “Finding the correct way to pursue it has taken a little time. I think things are on the right track.”
Dayton Town Council appointed council members Norm Anderson and Joey Sheeley to the joint powers board at its meeting Wednesday. Ranchester Town Council appointed council members Peter Clark and Randy Sundquist to the board at its meeting Tuesday. SCSD 1 appointed school board trustee Karen Walters to the board.
The first meeting of the joint powers board will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Dayton Town Hall. The primary purpose of the meeting will be to decide who will serve one-year and who will serve three-year terms on the board, which are staggered by state statute, and to appoint a chairman, secretary and treasurer. Now that all the entities involved in the joint powers board have approved the agreement and appointed board members, the board must receive state approval.
Dayton Mayor Bob Wood said efforts to bring natural gas to the Tongue River valley date back approximately five years.
“It’s been ongoing for a long time. It all comes down to funding,” Wood said.
Dayton originally worked with Montana-Dakota Utilities, which gave an estimate of $6 to $7 million to bring natural gas to the valley, Wood said.
Sheeley then suggested working with Steven Shute, co-owner of Kentucky Frontier Gas, who was instrumental in bringing natural gas to Pinedale. His estimate was approximately $3.5 million, Wood said.
Wood said the key reason for wanting to bring in natural gas to the valley and schools is economic development.
“When you start talking about any kind of economic development, that’s the first thing they want to know. Propane hits them pretty hard. They want the stability of natural gas when they build,” Wood said.
Although the price of propane varies with the seasons, it has gone as high as $2.40 per gallon. Natural gas hovers around the 90-cent per gallon mark, Wood said, which means heating costs could be drastically reduced fo Ranchester, Dayton, the schools and any houses along the pipeline.
Wood said several ranchers have also called him to see if they can hook into the natural gas pipeline to power their pivot sprinklers.
The timeline for the natural gas pipeline is “as soon as we can get it,” Wood said. He would like to see all the leg work be done over the winter with construction beginning in the spring, but there is a significant amount of work to be done regarding route, engineering and funding with no way to predict how long it may take.
Dayton Town Council tabled the resolution to form a joint powers board pending a few wording changes to the resolution regarding broadening the purpose of the board to possibly include more than just natural gas and removing wording about deciding fees for the joint powers board, which will allow fees to be decided after the first meeting. Ranchester also suggested a few wording changes. Dayton Town Council will vote on the resolution at its meeting Nov. 4.