By LeAnn R. Ralph
WHEELER — Residents and businesses in Wheeler may soon be able to hook up to natural gas.
The Wheeler Village Board approved a resolution at the April 14 meeting authorizing We Energies to apply to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin for a franchise to provide natural gas service to Wheeler.
Gary Hover, a representative for We Energies, said the first step in the process was for the Wheeler Village Board to approve a resolution that We Energies will present to the PSC.
We Energies, previously known as Wisconsin Gas LLC, is interested in bringing natural gas service to several communities in this area that currently do not have natural gas service, Hover said.
Wheeler would be an ideal location for natural gas, he said.
We Energies already provides natural gas service to Beskar Farms just outside of Wheeler, Hover said.
In addition, the houses in Wheeler are well positioned for natural gas service, he said.
“There’s not a lot of road (in Wheeler), and the houses are close to the streets,” Hover said.
If the PSC thinks that it will too expensive to bring natural gas service to Wheeler, the PSC will not grant a franchise, he said.
Bringing natural gas to Ridgeland is already a “for sure” proposal, and We Energies is approaching Prairie Farm and Cedar Lake as well, Hover said.
“We would like to get it going and get it on the books,” he said, noting that it will take the PSC six or eight months to make a decision.
Hover said he also plans to send out letters to every resident and business in Wheeler to see if there is interest in hooking up to natural gas.
The letter will state that We Energies is proposing to bring natural gas into Wheeler and will ask residents and businesses to indicate whether they are interested, he said.
The list of interested residents and businesses also will be presented to the PSC, Hover said.
Wheeler Village Board members wondered if there would be a cost to the village or a cost to individual homeowners and business owners.
“I don’t see how it could have a cost (for the village),” Hover said.
Residents and businesses will have to pay to convert their Liquid Propane (LP) furnaces, water heaters and stoves to natural gas, but the cost will be minimal for conversion, perhaps about $100 all together for multiple appliances, he said.
Residents and business owners also would have to pay to bring natural gas from the street to their building, and depending on the location of the building, the cost might be around $600, Hover said.
The cost of using natural gas is about half the cost of using LP. If a residence or a business spends $1,200 per year on LP, the cost for natural gas would be around $600, he said.
To find out how much it would cost for an individual residence or business to bring the service in from the street, Hover said he would be willing to measure the distance and give an estimate.
Xcel Energy would be the only other utility company that might be interested in a natural gas franchise in Wheeler, but Xcel Energy would have to bring natural gas service to Wheeler from Tainter Lake, and We Energies only has to bring the service from just outside of town, Hover said.
We Energies will be asking for the franchise for three years. If no one signs up for natural gas service in three years, the franchise will revert back to the PSC, he said.
Anyone who is interested in finding out what it would cost to use natural gas can go online to the We Energies website and click on the “blue flame” for a calculator to measure the savings of using natural gas as opposed to LP, Hover said.
This year was the first winter that the Village of Dallas had natural gas service, he noted.
We Energies will give Hover a quota of houses and businesses to sign up for natural gas service.
Hover speculated that he may have a quota of something like 30 houses for residences and perhaps eight businesses. The village hall would be considered a commercial use for natural gas. Churches also would be considered a commercial use, he said.
The letter that Hover plans to send out soon to residents and businesses in Wheeler will be the first of three or four communications about natural gas service.
James Carter, village president, was absent from the meeting.
Village Trustee Marlene Larson conducted the meeting in Carter’s absence.
Larson and Village Trustee Linda Crosby approved the resolution authorizing We Energies to “construct, maintain, and operate a gas distribution system and to lay pipes in the streets, alleys, lanes, roads, highways, bridges, parks and public places in the Village of Wheeler.”
Robin Goodell, village clerk-treasurer, has contact information for Hover. You can reach Goodell at (715) 632-2449, or stop at the village clerk’s office at 105 W. Tower Road in Wheeler.
In other business, the Wheeler Village Board learned that a new backstop has been put up at the Wheeler ball field.