DAYTON — The Tongue River Valley Joint Powers Board held its first meeting Tuesday to begin the process of bringing a natural gas pipeline to Dayton, Ranchester and Sheridan County School District 1 schools and offices in the valley.
The meeting was a public workshop and not an official meeting because the board must receive approval from the Wyoming Attorney General’s office before it can vote or make any official decisions. Ranchester Councilman and Tongue River Valley Joint Powers Board member Peter Clark said the attorney general’s decision could take 30-90 days.
“Everything we did tonight was unofficial, just a suggestion of what we’ll actually do when we reconvene. It could change, but it probably won’t,” Clark said.
Clark is the suggested chairman of the joint powers board.
The board consists of five members appointed by Ranchester and Dayton town councils and the SCSD 1 school board. Term lengths for members must be staggered between one, two and three years. Board members, with their proposed positions and term lengths, are:
• Peter Clark, Ranchester town councilman, proposed chairman, one-year term
• Norm Anderson, Dayton town councilman, proposed vice chairman, two year term
• Karen Walters, SCSD 1 school board trustee, proposed treasurer, two year term
• Joey Sheeley, Dayton town councilwoman, proposed secretary, three year term
• Randy Sundquist, Ranchester town councilman, three year term
The board decided to propose longer term lengths in order to provide stability to the board in its first years. The Tongue River Valley Joint Powers Board has proposed to meet the fourth Wednesday of every month.
Key tasks the board needs to accomplish include establishing a timeline and a budget for needed supplies and services such as attorneys, insurance, and getting the treasurer bonded, Clark said. Other tasks include identifying engineers and professional resources for consultation.
“I think it’s going to be good. I’m kind of excited. It should be an adventure to see if we can get it in here,” Clark said. “I think people are anticipating it. They wanted it to be done yesterday, but it’s going to take a long time to get this thing going.”
Once the joint powers board is approved by the attorney general and becomes an official governing body, it can begin to acquire funds, which will be crucial to the success of the project since funding has been an issue in past attempts to bring natural gas to the valley, Clark said.
Town council and school board members have already consulted with Steven Shute, co-owner of Kentucky Frontier Gas, who was instrumental in bringing natural gas to Pinedale. His estimate to bring in a natural gas pipeline was approximately $3.5 million, Dayton Mayor Bob Wood said following a recent Dayton Town Council meeting.
One of the primary reasons for bringing natural gas to the valley is economics. Propane costs have risen as high as $2.40 per gallon , Wood said, while natural gas hovers around 90 cents per gallon, meaning that heating costs could be reduced and economic development fostered for companies that shy away from Dayton and Ranchester due to the cost of propane.
Ranchers have also expressed interest in natural gas.
Bill White, who owns a ranch between Ranchester and Dayton, said he and several other ranchers would be interested in powering their irrigation pumps with natural gas, which would be cheaper and more stable than the diesel or electricity they currently use.